Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, great presentation, underdeveloped argument, 7 May 2011
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This review is from: Supercapitalism: The Battle for Democracy in an Age of Big Business (Paperback)
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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Ioannis Glinavos
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Location: London, UK

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