In this accessible book Noreena Hertz draws a frightening picture of our contemporary world, where corporations acquire more and more power over ordinary citizens and national governments and eventually replace democracy and take over the planet. Underlining her argument with numerous examples, facts and figures she argues that democratically elected governments seek to create an environment that suits businesses rather than their voters.
Hertz, however, admits to be neither strictly anti-capitalist nor anti-business. She is one of the 'critical globalisationists', like Hirst and Thompson, but nevertheless, makes it clear that she believes that not everyone benefits from globalisation. Passionately, she defends people, democracy and justice without glorifying governments or states, which in her view have 'a clear role to play in society' (p.13) but fail to live up to it in practice.
Although Hertz writes about the international economy and the changes that happened during the past three decades in this field, the book is by no means tedious. This is thanks to the many examples she uses but without over using statistics and figures. Hertz tells her story with a very personal touch and mixes her experiences with those of real life people, whom she undoubtedly admires. There is Granny D, a 91-year-old American grandmother who walked thousands of miles across America to deliver her speeches against corrupt politicians. Or on the other side of the Atlantic, she finds Oskar Lafontaine, the former German Finance Minister, who said on the day of his resignation 'the heart is not traded on the stock market yet.'
Hertz does not limit her examination of 'the silent takeover' to America but looks more closely at Europe, than does for example Naomi Klein in No Logo. Here she discovers that almost the same things happen, only perhaps on a smaller scale. For example she describes how corporations buy influence and action by donating large amounts of money to party election campaigns. And how, in fact, politicians spend more time and effort on raising funds for their campaigns than on finding solutions for social problems.
She argues, that this is then the reason for low turnouts on election days. People have lost their trust in politicians, as they seem to be unable to solve the problems most eminent to the average citizen. Hertz sees this as an indicator for the beginning of the death of democracy and the triumph of corporations.
Her views that in the contemporary world, the consumer has more power to change things than the voter has are certainly disputable. However, she has a point when she highlights that through boycott campaigns the consumer can sometimes actively change the way corporations conduct business but the voter can only chose between increasingly homogenous politicians with the same inability to solve problems seen as most urgent by the people: health, education and unemployment.
Overall, Hertz writes a consistent book with some excellent parts but does not tell the reader anything fundamentally new.