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Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Robert B. Reich , Dick Hill
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 49.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2007
Capitalism should be made to serve democracy, and not the other way around, argues Robert Reich.Supercapitalism - turbocharged, Web-based, able to find and make almost anything just about anywhere - is working wonderfully well to create wealth. But democracy, so argues Robert Reich, US Secretary of Labour under Bill Clinton - charged with caring for all citizens - is failing under its influence.Reich explains how widening inequalities, heightened job insecurity, and global warming are the logical outcomes of supercapitalism. He shows that companies, fighting harder than ever to be competitive, have become more deeply involved in politics, and how the tools used to temper society's problems - taxation, education, trade unions - have withered as supercapitalism has burgeoned."Supercapitalism" sets out a clear course to a vibrant capitalism and a concurrent, equally vibrant democracy. Business and politics must be kept distinct; the legal fiction that corporations are citizens must end - whether Wal-Mart, Google, Microsoft or Nike are good or evil misses the point. We must stop treating companies as if they were people and must abolish corporate income tax, charging shareholders instead, and hold individuals rather than corporations guilty of crimes. Only people can be citizens, and only citizens should be allowed to participate in democratic decision making.Important, timely, authoritative and thrilling, "Supercapitalism" is a tour-de-force of modern popular political writing and is essential reading for anyone concerned that government and big business are too familiar bedfellows.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Library ed edition (1 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400134617
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400134618
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 1.8 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,360,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Robert Reich's timely book should act as a wake-up call to the body politic.' -- The Tribune

'The most original and honest criticism of the status quo that I have read for a long time.' -- Literary Review, October 2008

`One of the most interesting books on political economy to appear in a long time.' -- Samuel Brittan, Financial Times

`Reich's book is fluently written, highly informative and a thoroughly absorbing read.' -- Sunday Business Post, (EIRE) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'The most original and honest criticism of the status quo that I have read for a long time.' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Robert Reich (RR) has an interesting take on the development of capitalism in the last 40 years, particularly, though not exclusively, in the US. It's also one that might confound the expectations of critics who recall him as Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. Some passages of the book might warm Milton Friedman's heart, were it now warmable. But the book is very weak on proposed solutions.

A rough outline of RR's themes, slightly rearranged from their presentation in the book, is as follows:

@@ We (not just Americans, but most of the developed world) are caught in a paradox today of doing very well as consumers and investors, while feeling increasingly powerless as citizens. "As consumers and investors we want the great deals" that the current form of capitalism brings, while "[a]s citizens we don't like many of the social consequences that flow from them," @ 89. Moreover, we don't know how to act effectively on our feelings as citizens - and we often direct our frustration at the wrong targets (such as at individual companies).

@@ The situation was quite different prior to, roughly, the 1970s (Chapter 1). American industry was dominated by oligopolies, consumers had less choice, the Dow was a fraction of what it is now. Government intervened to control wages and prices, which made established players in industry more secure. (RR points out that as recently as 1994, over half of the Fortune 500 had been founded before 1930, @19.). Citizens belonged to a wider variety of local, regional and national unions and voluntary groups that were "countervailing forces" (in JK Galbraith's phrase) to industry. Government spent more of its time mediating between these countervailing interests.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Citizen's Guide to the New Capitalism 9 July 2010
Format:Paperback
Why does the cotemporary capitalist economy appear to be a freight-train, hurling onwards in a seemingly unstoppable fashion, flattening any opposition in its wake? Robert Reich was former Secretary of Labour to Clinton and subsequently member of the Obama Transition Economic Advisory Board and in 'Supercapitalism' he advances a compelling explanation as to the origins of the inequalities, frenzied competition and insecurities of our times. The key according to Reich is not the defeat of organised labour in the 1980s, nor the parallel processes of privatisation and deregulation. Indeed, these are consequences of a process that marks a major shift from the 'Not Quite Gold Age' of the three decades after WWII. During this period, monopolistic corporations ruled the commanding heights of the US economy (and those of the rest of the developed world). Insulated from competition and under pressure from well organised unions, their profits were sufficiently large to share with their workers, which had the beneficial consequence of muting inequality and thus providing a large middle class to consume their goods. With a sufficiently large stake in the US political economy, corporate leaders were something like statesmen, arbitrating between competing interests.

According to Reich, this all changed with he advent of a new wave of technological innovation centred around computerisation and communications beginning in the 1970s. Competition on the basis of quality shook the old corporate dinosaurs out of their cosy complacency. Barriers to entering markets fell, leading to challenges to former monopolies by new upstarts. New technologies allowed consumers to compare products more easily, investors to shift their portfolios more rapidly, and retailers to move between different suppliers more rapidly.
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By Ioannis Glinavos VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The main idea in this book is that capitalism has morphed into 'supercapitalism' that has engulfed democracy. The reason for this according to Reich is that the incentives of the market are such that the pursuit of profit empowers investors and consumers as opposed to citizens. As the market caters to the needs of investors/consumers, it undercaters for public goods. These public goods can only be identified via the demcoratic process, but this process has become corrupted as more and more money pours into the system to make political platforms consistent with market needs.

So far so good. Reich expresses well what many others have discovered.

The problem with the book and the argument however is that it seriously underplays the role of ideas and ideology. For Reich, emphasis on ideas is an academic's obsession. I disagree. Reich finds that supercapitalism empowers consumers, but does not discuss the comprehensive manipulation of consumer desires via advertising and marketing. Reich suggests that investors are all powerful because they have a lot of choice and the ability to move their money around. Choice and ability they have, but this does not equate to power. How often have we heard discussions lamenting poor corporate governance as a result of poor involvment of investors (say pension funds) in corporate decision making. This issue is also left unexplored.

Finally, Reich's proposals for exiting this problem and reinvigorating democracy seem incomplete. I guess they are better developed in other publications. The book however would be better if the key idea (that democracy needs to bring capitalism back under its control) was more fully developed.

In summary, a useful and thought-provoking book, but more an identification of a problem, rather a pathway to solutions.
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