Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life (Vintage)
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From one of America's foremost economic and political thinkers comes a vital analysis of our new hypercompetitive and turbo-charged global economy and the effect it is having on American democracy. With his customary wit and insight, Reich shows how widening inequality of income and wealth, heightened job insecurity, and corporate corruption are merely the logical results of a system in which politicians are more beholden to the influence of business lobbyists than to the voters who elected them.

Powerful and thought-provoking, Supercapitalism argues that a clear separation of politics and capitalism will foster an enviroment in which both business and government thrive, by putting capitalism in the service of democracy, and not the other way around.

Customer Reviews:

  • Reich is Right On!
    A must read for everyone! Reich lays out the history of American Supercapitalism, with undeniable exactness. His insight into the reasons why we have gotten to where we are today is spot-on. He brings to life the plight of working Americans through the evolution of American Business. Pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of particular policies. Helping us to understand the many changes that supercapitalism has brought us. Absolutely Brilliant!...more info
  • Very Short Shrift Indeed
    Well written and a disarmingly easy read, it is the predictable indictment of the usual suspects, starting on page one by linking Milton Friedman with Pinochet's brutal regime; and while Mr Reich may grant that Ronald Reagan may not exactly have been Anti-Christ, the movement he supposedly embodied is definitely another matter entirely. It has the predictable paeans, to such as John Kenneth Galbraith (a fellow academic) and Walter Reuther (pleading guilty to being a Socialist), with a slightly discernable retrospect to the security of Joe Stalin's Five Year Plans. There are the usual charts and graphs, with the predictable conclusions, that bring to mind Disraeli's comment about lies and statistics. Presumably, all of this passes for scholarly work at UC Berkeley. The 272 pages spread through six chapters makes it clear by example, if not be explicit definition, that the book's title is all due to us, our greedy and uncaring and selfish selves, and all we need to become enlightened is to follow the precepts of the usual things by the anointed, and whether they be Demlicans or Republicrats or modest academics, we all know who they are. There is nothing new in this book, other than the fear of freedom and responsibility being described with a bit more urgency. The various political fringes will warmly admire or roundly denounce this book and its declarations, depending on their interests, while everyone else can safely ignore it....more info
  • Enjoyable, Accessible Read on a Sound SocioEconomic Thesis
    thoughtful, well-written thesis on how we as americans fill various relationships in the economy, society and our democracy (ie. we are "investors," "consumers" and "citizens")...most often, in the modern global economy ("supercapitalism"), we as citizens, even with our democratic voices, lose out to the forces of investing & consuming. Reich isn't apologetic about this - he just states it in a factual manner that really does make simple sense....more info
  • Allow me to be unconvinced
    Reich suggests that economic history after 1945 can be divided in two phases: the "almost Golden Age" and the ensuing phase of "super capitalism'. They roughly correspond with the age of mass-production/culture and the following period of diversification, long tail, etc. He provides an excellent description of the entanglement of commerce and American politics in both phases. His central thesis is that the current 'super capitalism' phase is marked by an substantial increase of the influence of companies on American politics. As consumers and investors Americans profited, but as citizens Americans lost influence.

    I beg to differ. It assumes that in the earlier phase citizens were more influential. There was indeed more regulation in those days, which suggests that politicians had more leverage. But were these regulations the reflection of the power of the people? Or were they the outcome of a system, sometimes referred to as the industrial-military complex, where things simply played out differently. Reich himself relates that during the "almost Golden Age" the CIA appeared to `discover' situations that required American military intervention whenever American business interest were at stake. I suggest that, using his own arguments and examples, a case could be made that commercial interests in that earlier phase had a far more direct and influential effect on American policies than in the phase of `super capitalism'.

    In his `journalistic' style he could as easily have presented the Seattle riots, consumer campaigns, the Brent Spar affair, etc. of the super capitalism phase as a sign of the `empowered citizen'. Reich suggests that not companies, but citizens/politicians should act to take 'social responsibility' measures. Yes true, but pressure on companies to become `social responsible', might be a good tactic. Not because companies are the prime target, but because politicians, through processes as decribed by mr. Reich, are directly and with more effect influenced when companies are under pressure. ...more info
  • So-so, but you're better off with the NeoMarxists if you want to learn about this topic.
    I'm a longtime fan of Reich's pieces on NPR's Marketplace and bought this book thinking it would be of a similar bent. I was mistaken. Reich does a mediocre job of leading the reader through the forces that created the current economic climate and his views of global capitalism are simplistic at best. If you want to read up on the effects of globalization, try the Neo-Marxist writings of Frederic Jameson, David Harvey, and of course, Karl Marx....more info
  • A work of genious!
    Reich has hit the nail on the head with this work uncovering the fundamental problem with our democracy today. And it's no liberal perfect world manifesto either. With suggestions like removing the corporate income tax and corporate law suites while also arguing for universal health-care, his ideas and thought process are highly non-conventional yet extremely sound. He turns our conventional view of corporations in our society on it's head. Yet he's really only arguing for an interesting mix between the more socialist (yet economically fruitful) period of the 50s and 60s and the global, super capitalistic way of today. A must read for any citizen....more info
  • Interesting - proved Edwards right about the lobbyists
    This was more interesting than I expected.
    I did not expect Dr. Reich to prove John Edwards right without even saying his name. He did this when he pointed out that about 33,000 lobbyists spend over two billion a year on lobbying. The lobbying combined with the ever present need for cash to pay for the next election make it very difficult for noncorporate viewpoints to be heard. This is what John Edwards keeps repeating but which I never truly appreciated until I read the book.
    Now you know why Edwards might be the best candidate for President but will probably be cold shouldered by the media thus killing his candidacy.
    Lots of other good things in the book but others have mentioned them and there is no point in being verbose.
    ....more info
  • Supercapitalism
    This is a must read for anybody interested in seeing how his own life is impacted by the forces of economics. Knowledge is power and this book helped me realize what is going on nowadays in the world economy and how I can conduct my business and my life in a better way.
    ...more info
  • capitalism
    Robert Reich wrote an excellent book on the history of capitalism in America. He is one of the most knowledgable economists in the country....more info
  • A surprising readable book on economics
    Many conservatives shy away from Robert Reich's writings for no better reason than that he served in the Clinton administration. Although there are some liberal social suggestions made, they are rare and distinctly noted by the author. As an economic overview, this is the most readable book on the subject that I have ever read. There is enough depth for those interested in economics, yet it also manages to be general enough for those simply looking for an overview. If the reader honestly wants to consider the direction of the country, this is an excellent read. For those only interested in supporting their presuppositions, be they liberal or conservative, Reich presents many obstacles. ...more info
  • the scorpion and the toad
    reading reich reminded me of the story of the toad that took the scorpion across the river. the scorpion stung the toad in mid stream. as the toad was about to sink it asked the scorpion the reason for its action - after all they'd both die as a result. the scorpion answered: it is my nature.

    reich opines: it is the firm's nature to generate profits and returns: in pursuit of its mission it will spare no effort, leave any law unturned, or break any supply chain. democracy will be perverted, and societies cowered into compliance - for a fistful of bargains for the toiling classes and ever increasing accumulation of wealth for the privileged few.

    reich is clearly impressed by the vibrance of this 'steamroller'- and ready to justify it as 'fact on the ground' as late as 2007: he fails even to entertain the possibility that is was all make-believe, emulative exhuberance - manic behaviour that would shortly destroy 40% of the world's wealth.

    what should be done? no palliatives, please, says reich. social responsibility of corporations is an oxymoron. good luck with regulation - he wishes the naive. regulation no longer serves to rein in the corporations; it is the turf where competitive advantage is obtained through spinning the goalposts hither and tither.

    one suggestion is worth pondering - strip the corporation of any anthropomorphic attributes the courts have bestowed on it. no 'quasy-citizenship' rights: no right to sue or lobby. let the shareholders do it, if they so wish. same for charity - as Warren Buffett tried for a while. No income taxes either; presumably fees, however, to cover the costs it generates, from resource use to infrastructure. well, good luck with this frontal assault on supercapitalism.

    reich ...more info
  • You Don't Have to Be An Economist: Reich's Take on U.S. Economics and Political Impact
    Reich writes a highly readable book on how America has changed from major corporation to a global economy that through the power of diversity, many more investors, has broken up the once large and few powerful corporations that effected prices and wages with stability and jobs to more competitive markets that drive prices down through cheaper labor, primarily overseas, that costs jobs but brings more money back to the investor essentially creating a very sad cycle. Reich explains it all well in pretty straight forward terms, thus you don't have to be an economist to understand his broad points and he fills the book with excellent examples. One of the most ironic points he makes is about Walmart. Walmart accomplishes its goal of providing a broad collect of cheap goods to the consumer, made in China, but the people that are the biggest buyers at Walmart are many of the same people who have or will lose jobs because those jobs are going overseas. Another interesting point Reich makes is that we have to see corporations not as people doing good deeds here and there but corporate machines that just want to make money and good will is only convenient if they can make a buck, thus laws made by people must control the excesses and make companies responsible, thus democracy thrives when individuals combat lobbyists to reign in destructive corporate practices that sometimes by pass even the investors to allow board members aristocratic control of company profits. Another great example, BP's failure to inspect its branch pipelines that cause huge oil releases in the environment. What caused that? The answer is profit motivated, BP only inspected the main pipeline artery, not the branches, because only the main artery was legally required, so they did the minimum. My only criticism is that I wish the "how to fix it" end chapter had a bit more depth. But you will also get a whiff of Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson and more. You think those guys made money? Wait until you read how much a hedge fund portfolio manager makes! It is astonishing. ...more info
  • Comprehensive
    I dedicated last year to learning more about the economy and globalization. And I swore I wouldn't pick up any more economy related books. But I already fell into the trap with Supercapitalism. Robert Reich wrote an amazing book on the macro-level ins and outs of capitalism's history in America. This book is really, really good. And not boring or complicated like most other books with the economy as their subject. His chapter entitled Of Two Minds is worth the price of the book (or my drive to the library). In that chapter he basically writes about how we want cheap prices as consumers and investors but simultaneously want our values and rights as citizens upheld. But for the most part, this is almost impossible to balance. Because we want the best of both worlds. And the problem with injustice in the world as it relates to globalization is not with the big companies (although they play a role), but in our lack of a voice as citizens and our insatiable desire to buy and consume at alarming rates. Great, great stuff. I have excerpts posted here and here. But I definitely recommend this book because of it's easy-to-read nature and connecting the dots on all of these big issues....more info
  • Provocative, insightful reflections on capitalism
    Robert Reich, President Bill Clinton's secretary of labor and one of the most provocative public intellectuals in the U.S., unflinchingly explores the transformation of American democratic capitalism into a system of "supercapitalism," in which corporations and the market exercise apparently unbridled power. Reich considers and then discards most, if not all, of the standard leftist explanations for this development. Instead, in a logically coherent analysis, he arrives at some startling but convincing conclusions. For example, arguing that the government should never treat corporations like people, Reich advocates eliminating the corporate income tax. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone who wants to understand today's economics, politics or fiscal events. Although recent legislation attempts to address some of the issues Reich raises, such as the flow of corporate money into political campaigns, his analysis is still relevant....more info
  • Another great book by Reich
    Whether you agree with his political point of view, or not, his description of the current state of American capitalism, and how we got here, is outstanding. His observations on the political landscape will make you sit up and take notice of things that you may have missed before. There is much here that Conservatives can agree with in the identification of problems, but Reich's liberal "Big Government and More Laws" approach to the solutions will drive them crazy.

    Reich is truly a superb economist, and is limited only by the fact that he has but one hand - the left.

    This book is enjoyable and frustrating for any thinking American. Enjoyable in that it is well written and very well researched. Frustrating in that many of the conclusions strike at the heart of the American belief system.

    A book to be read by both the Left and the Right, and also those poor forgotten souls in the middle. ...more info
  • Informative
    Thought this book was very EYE OPENING and helped create a better understanding of what large corporations are up to and what that actually means to a democratic society. We need to create policies that prevent large corporations from influencing public policies and keeps capitalism and democracy separate....more info
  • Another view on the subject
    Reich gives his interesting explanation to why we are where we are
    consumers, investors, and citizens. ...more info
  • Supercapitalism
    This excellent book ties in economic theory with practical outcomes. It describes the way the corporate world has taken over our politics, our economics, our environment and our society in the singular name of profits. How and why corporations dominate everything we eat, breath, drink or know. It even suggests a remedy, which, of course, would be difficult to implement but certainly worth thinking about and spreading around. Change will only come if we develop the political will to make it happen.
    Dorothy Green...more info
  • The Cliff's Notes version
    This book rocks, but given the multitude of reviews out there already (and that I like it for the same reasons everyone else does), I thought I'd make my contribution by giving a quick summation of the contents.

    Basically, the whole book is about how this country is supposed to run on the dual ideals of capitalism and democracy, but lately, the forces of capitalism have been crushing the democracy part. Reich says it's our own damn fault: our greed for $$$$$$$$$$ and Return On Investment have driven the vast majority of our actions as consumers and investors, causing the very social ills we complain about (job insecurity, massive wage inequality, depraved garbage on TV, etc.)

    He makes the point that it's illogical to scapegoat Wal-Mart and friends no matter how big they are, since they're basically playing by the rules and doing exactly what we demand of them. In fact, when a company shows the slightest sign of generosity (i.e. when Costco's CEO lets its employees pay only 8% of their healthcare costs instead of the usual 25%) it instantly gets slammed; any CEO that isn't doing everything to "maximize shareholder value" usually gets the boot. Investors don't care about much else besides the bottom line (and even when they do, their purchasing patterns don't reflect it), which is why they're willing to pay whatever it takes to get the most profit-generating CEO (and then later, of course, everyone gripes about massively overinflated CEO salaries).

    Basically, we're all hypocrites and morons, but Reich reminds us that it's not entirely our fault, because the system makes it a lot easier to express your voice via capitalism than via democracy. For example, you can choose where to shop, what companies to invest in, and what CEOs you want in charge, but if you try to speak your mind about something like how the media is debasing society, well, there's no real specific constructive outlet for it, and chances are you won't be heard above the din.

    I guess this stuff should be obvious, but I never really thought about it before, and anyway it's rad how he analyzes everything so deeply, fairly, and realistically -- lessons yet to be learned by sycophantic assmunches like Michael Moore.

    As a sidenote, I also picked up on a few interesting nuggets of truth, like:
    - Costco's customers have more than 2X the income of Wal-Mart customers. I also heard that Costco's CEO only makes a six-figure income (unheard of for CEOs) and the company pays people about $17/hour vs. Wal-Mart's $10. Sounds like a really thoughtful company.
    - Reich thinks it's silly that the 80s was known as the decade of greed, as if that mentality wasn't there before. Plus, a lot of the seeds and statistics of this gaping inequality started in the 70s. Ack, I forgot which ones.

    Anyway, definitely recommended....more info
  • Brain Food Served up Right
    You might expect a polemical book from this committed liberal but you would be wrong. Left or right, one is guaranteed to find something here to disagree with although the book is consistently well argued and fair-minded. It is at least as much about the political process (American and global) as it is about capitalism. Either way, it could be a dry read in other hands but Reich puts together a cogent, highly readable and sometimes maddening thesis. He challenges pre-conceived notions and suggests thoughtful and provocative ways to rebalance our democracy and return power to its citizens of all political persuasions. ...more info