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Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,794 ratings  ·  188 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 251 pages
Published September 4th 2007 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2007)
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Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society
I will now continue worshipping at the altar of Robert Reich.

I came away from this book thinking, "Wow, I really learned something." Not, "I learned some interesting factoids," or "I learned of an interesting opinion." I really learned.

Reich presents his premise very succinctly at the beginning of the book: The last several decades have involved a shift of power away from us in our capacities as citizens and toward us as consumers and investors. He then spends most of the rest of the book
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: white
This book, on the underlying causes behind what's changed in the capitalist world since the mid 70's and why, is a fascinating read. It also made me quake with rage on about every other page. That's the thing about looking at underlying causes of problems: it usually takes away the more obvious solutions, like "fire that guy", by demonstrating where he came from, and why there's a long line of people who will do pretty much the exact same thing, waiting to take his place.

I'm not just talking
Tiffany Conner
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had the distinct privilege of meeting Professor Reich in San Francisco last year. He is an intelligent, insightful, engaging man. I wish I were so privileged as to have an opportunity to take a class with him at Berkeley. Oh, he's also very, very short. Like, really short. And nice. He's nice too . . . for someone who attended law school.

I enjoyed this book. This was my first time reading any of Professor Reich's work. I knew of him from his time as Secretary of Labor with the Clinton
Jun 05, 2008 rated it liked it
I have no idea why I thought that Mr Reich would deliver the knockout blow or at least the stunning indictment of unrestrainted global capitalism in place today. Mr Reich was labor secretary during that most probusiness of administrations, the Clinton years. A probusiness stance only furthered and exacerbated in the following 8 Bush years. One could rightly accuse Mr. Reich of being an architect of the present global meltdown. But any mea culpas would be hard to find.
No, what you will find here
Supercapitalism by Robert B. Reich, is an interesting pre-recession analysis of the movement toward what Reich terms "Supercapitalism." This book starts off with an analysis of what Reich describes as the "Not Quite So Golden Age' of immense US-ked growth from the 1870's-1970's. This was an era of intensive innovation and invention, and massive geo-political change that led to the US-led system of economics and politics we know today. This age in the US was full of massive growth, huge ...more
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Robert Reich is sometimes categorized as a standard liberal idealogue. This book should put that characture to rest. Reich sees himself as pro-capitalism. The market is needed, Reich argues (echoing Milton Friedman) because dissent is undermined if one cannot dissent and also buy bread without government funds. There is, however, a difference between democratic capitalism and supercaptilism. And we have gone from one to the other, with terrible results.

Simply put, Reich's thesis is that
Dec 06, 2008 rated it liked it
This book describes the transition, particularly in America but also somewhat in the rest of the world, from a balanced capitalist democracy to a capitalism-dominated system.

Previously, businesses served many purposes: they were important parts of communities, giving people stable jobs, strengthening communities and the country, and mostly stay out of politics and the government. Over time, as competition and widespread stock investing got more popular, an evolutionary process transformed the
Alex Lee
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reich admirably explains what neoliberalism is, at least, how it came to be and what the thresholds for its implications are.

He is very clear in defining how and why lobbying works, and how an excess of money and competition disruptions politics, economics, labor and forms globalism. The root of this, he claims is technological disruption; tech discovered and funded through pentagon programs to fight communism. This tech eventually finds its way into consumer hands and starts to erode market
Betsy Curlin
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Without a doubt, one of the best books I've ever read on the economics of American society, and how this has changed from the Democratic Capitalism of the 1950s and 1960s (remember LBJ's Great Society?) to the Supercapitalism of our present time. Reich is adept at explaining economic policy in terms that the layman can understand, while keeping the narrative intelligent and engaging. I know understand why very little public policy legislation comes out of Congress, why present day CEOs are paid ...more
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: socialists, capitalists
I see myself as unequivocally capitalist, believing in creative destruction and the rewarding of those who give the most value to consumers. Nevertheless, despite the scathing condemnation of supercapitalism in this book, I feel that it was a worthwhile read, and recommend it to everyone who wants to have a stake in greater society.

It is especially relevant to Americans, who always confuse democracy and capitalism. Nowadays, there is a large disconnect between these two mechanisms. One has done
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
This is the best non-fiction book I've read since Gödel, Escher, Bach An Eternal Golden Braid, and the best economics/public policy book I've ever read. (It beats Freakonomics because it's actually applicable to real life.) I recommend this book to anyone and everyone--especially if you're interested in public policy and how to strengthen democracy here in the U.S. and worldwide.
May 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It's so easy today for us to rant about corporate greed or the sad fact that small independent businesses are being replaced by large superstores. And we are quick to blame heartless CEOs or big corporations. But in his book, Supercapitalism, Reich describes the forces in the US that are driving these changes and how we, as consumers, stock holders, and employees play a distinct and sometimes contrary role. Definitely some interesting points raised in this book - excellent in audio and a great ...more
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written book about the interaction between capitalism and democracy. It contains an excellent history of markets in the United States, displaying how they have functioned in the past, how they operate currently, and what caused those changes. Reich's writing eschews ideology. This book is easy to read, and I would recommend it to anyone regardless of political orientation.
Ahmed Al-Majid
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
An amazingly written book about what capitalism has transformed into. Just started it, and completely spellbound.
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
must read to get an idea on the policy level drive by the big corporations, written by someone who is so closely associated with the processes and actors
Jeremy Lyon
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Over the last couple of decades I’ve accumulated a library of books that I always intended to read, but never quite got around to. Many of those books have taken on a lot more relevance since the 2016 election.

Take for example Supercapitalism, by Robert Reich. Copyrighted in 2007, it turns out that Reich’s analysis has a lot to say about the predicament we find ourselves in today, 10 years later. And although Reich is all over the social media feeds as a committed anti-Trump crusader, his
Cem Yüksel
Right observations and analysis on how consumer and shareholder got the power in the era that companies have been put in though competition through availibility of choices. Consumer has the alternatives boosted by global supply chain in case of uncompetitive products/services and shareholders have other investment options in case of low returns. This brings companies to focus on profitability and cheaper/better/faster. Although it is a benefit for consumer, the consequences are on unemployment ...more
Robert Mahon
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Hmm, so how to review Supercapitalism? The short answer is that, as a student of economics and economic philosophy, I appreciate what Prof. Reich has to say. He is highly educated and experienced at the highest levels. In this book, there is much with which I agree....and much (the majority) with which I disagree. I think one of the first things to understand is what Prof. Reich means by the term "Super Capitalism". I took it not to be his idea of what "super" capitalism is or should/could be. ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great explanation and debunking of some corporate business behaviors in the modern era. Although for some other countries, the author’s solutions as of more regulation and more restrictions of corporate activity in politics will surely not work mostly because the law is crudely not and quite never respected and we as citizens do nothing still.
Sharon Mollerus
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very interesting take on the global economy and how we got here and some ideas for how to keep human interests in the foreground through political measures.
Mar 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Supercapitalism documents the transformation in the American economy from what Robert Reich calls "Democratic Capitalism" towards "Supercapitalism". In the "not so Golden Age", between the end of World War II and the mid-1970's, the U.S. economy was structured as a three-way contract between big business, big labor, and big government. Business got its profits, labor got its wages and benefits, and government played its role as regulator and agent of the unions. Absent foreign competition, large ...more
Todd Martin
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
In Supercapitalism Robert B. Reich (former Secretary of Labor under Clinton) argues that while capitalism has progressed in the last 40 years offering consumers and investors more choices, power and freedoms, that this has come at the expense of a diminishment to democracy. People have less individual power at the voting booth, candidates are less responsive to the needs of their constituents and government expends its efforts serving the businesses who bank roll their careers rather than the ...more
Brian Gabriel
Oct 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Capitalism is roughly defined as "economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit from investment." Democracy is defined as "a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives."

Admittedly not entirely well-versed in economics or political science, I believed that democracy and capitalism were always symbiotic (meaning what was good for democracy was always good for capitalism and vice-versa).
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very intuitive, intriguing look at how capitalism and democracy fit together. Reich dismisses political theories that place the problems of our recent decades at the feet of one class or another (i.e. Ronal Reagan showing businesses that unions could and should be stood up to, corporate executives becoming greedier or less ethical) and seeks a systematic understanding of how capitalistic forces, once constrained by a mix of democratic institutions and oligopolies, has come to overwhelm the ...more
Nov 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Dad
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Neat book presenting his theory that the ills of capitalism are not the fault of corporations, but rather democracy. Corporations exist to make money for their shareholders, so the only way to ensure actual social responsibility is through legislation. OK, fair enough. I'm curious to know what he thinks these days, since he wrote this before the current economic downturn. In his own words:

--"Personally, I'd be willing to sacrifice some of the benefits I get as a consumer and investor in order to
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Investment capitalism's intense competition leads actors to gain any imaginable advantage over their competitors. Personal ethics must give way to investor demands, because of how liquid investment has become and how easily investors can invest in better returns from competitors that don't have ethical (whatever that means) reservations that stagnate profits. This, coupled with government deregulation, has transformed the economy from one of oligopolies driven by labor unions benefiting ...more
Apr 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on a whim... I like Reich's writing even though I don't always agree with him. Unsurprisingly, this is a well-written book, but it seems a little under-cooked to me. His thesis is that the global shift from one mode of capitalism to another (democratic capitalism to "supercapitalism") since the 1970s is essentially caused by structural or technological developments rather than political or moral movements. New technologies have empowered us as consumers and investors, which has ...more
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Robert Reich's Supercapitalism is a must-read for anyone hoping to make a positive difference in today's world. Using accessible prose and familiar examples, Reich portrays the economic and political world we live in and the nature of our agency in it. Along the way, he critiques common but misleading explanations of how economic activity and social goals relate to each other. I'm aware that my academic background in economics and business helped me to read this book quickly and enhanced my ...more
Esteban del Mal
Reich takes a nuanced view of economics which challenged my thinking and eventually won me over (although I wish he would have given more in the way of solutions than the final fifteen pages).

Although I disagree with him on several points, I am agreement with the thesis of his book: namely, that the citizen has been overwhelmed by the consumer and investor, and hence, democracy is in danger of being subordinated to the economy (more so than it already has). The end result is the monolithic
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Dear Goodreads,

In this book I learned that Robert Reich was that crazy liberal Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. The dude is clearly torn between his love of the open market and his unwavering faith in that silly ideology called "De-mock-crasee" or something. He, like, wants to chill with both Adam Smith and James Madison. Actually, he might just want to be Alexander Hamilton, which is totally whack since that dude totally found his wife in the 1700's version of Craigslist. That and he
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Reich is probably hated or loved, but the fact remains: he is spot on with his political and cultural observations. Supercapitalism is a clarifying inditement of democracy and capitalism in the USA. The foundation for the book is the differentiation of citizens and consumers: we are sometimes one, both or the other.

Reich's proposition is that as capitalism becomes "more responsive to what we want as individual purchasers of goods..." democracy grows "less responsive to what we want
Dan Spradlin
Jun 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I generally liked this book because the information I thought was presented in a factual way and then an interpretation followed. My only criticism is that it showed a disparity of wealth distribution over time since the 1970's, which all the information is accurate. I wish he would have elaborated on two things, although he touched on one. One point about the distribution of wealth disparity would be the turnover of wealth. He mentions that all the rich people in the different periods are not ...more
Carol Kuniholm
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've been trying to understand what's happening economically, politically, globally, and noticed quite a few discussions mentioned Robert Reich. Supercapitalism gives some really helpful insight into the ways that unregulated capitalism has overwhelmed democracy "of the people." Reich explains the power of free market mechanisms to intensify competition and to push us toward a system where money is the only recognized value. He identifies disturbing symptoms, suggests possible causes, and offers ...more
Geoffrey Morris
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So Reich spends the first half or so of the book setting up the framed argument: what he calls democratic capitalism, but what I would call oligopolic capitalism, served the common good. Supercapitalism, or what I'd think of as true, modern capitalism, serves the consumer and investor and ignores any social constructs as market inefficiencies. I think Reich is correct in what he argues in "Of Two Minds": what is good for us as consumers and investors may not be what is right for us as citizens.

Dylan Suher
Aug 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
Reich's account of the rise of Neoliberalism curiously omits significant antagonism and occasionally employs some shaky arguments. For example, I find the Marxist analysis of the crisis of the '70s to be more convincing than Reich's analysis, and I don't even know if I find the Marxist analysis all that convincing. Reich's argument that the introduction of new and better products and greater market efficiency and competition led to the dismantling of market regulation and a decrease in the value ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Supercapitalism is broadly defined as the separation of capitalism and democracy citing eight reasons. However, the problem with the term Supercapitalism is that capitalism and democracy have always been separate. Capitalism is an economic system while Democracy is a political system, and this is self evident in the case of Hong Kong and Singapore. Both have the most lassize-faire capitalist economies in the world yet both lack democracy while simultaneously, sustaining the most economic ...more
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, political
Robert B. Reich has served as a public servant in three national administrations and is one of America's greatest economic and political thinkers. In this book, he explains how capitalism of the mid 21st century turned first into global capitalism as new markets for products opened and then super-capitalism as a result of worldwide consumer demand. The result has been widening income inequalities, job insecurity, and increasing environmental impacts. He details how companies fighting for the ...more
Nov 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
This book is fabulous. It's a fascinating look at what's happened to the American (and also the world) economy. Reich believes that a particular brand of capitalism he calls Supercapitalism (shocker) has taken over in the past 30-40 years. Supercapitalism has weakened our democracy by handing over governmental power to corporations (and their lobbyists) rather than keeping it in the hands of citizens. Reich repeatedly states that while our power and 'choices' as consumers and investors have ...more
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is an excellent overview of how our system of capitalism works, and how it used to work. He talks about the ways in which our system is good and the ways it is bad, and at the end he presents some pretty reasonable suggestions for how it could be improved so that we still have a thriving capitalist society but our voices as citizens aren't drowned out. While I disagree with some of his suggestions, most I would agree with, and his overall point is that we often don't have a chance to ...more
Nov 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent read. Reich is a great storyteller, so he is able to break down the workings of contemporay markets and how they interact with democracy. His interpretive structure provides insight into how to see and understand world markets. Reading it alongside There is Power in a Union, is also revelatory. I can't help but see our current situation as similar to the emergence of industrial capitalism in the late 19th century. The difficulty, of course, is that there is not a worldwide ...more
Charles Baker
Oct 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book. Reich covers the evolution of democratic capitalism into "Super Capitalism" from the time of the Great Depression through the "not-so Golden Age' of Post WWII America into the current day. Main points, despite the Supreme Court's ruling to the contrary corporations ARE NOT PEOPLE! Corporations cannot be "socially responsible," their purpose is to provide the highest possible returns to their shareholders and good products at the great bargains, relative to their ...more
Tim Owens
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Robert Reich explains the evolution of the American economic system from World War II to the present and its effects upon democracy in the US. Technological innovations beginning with the space race along with the increase size of cargo shipping brought about by the Vietnam War have created a nation of investors and consumers who have demanded nothing less than extreme competition resulting in Supercaptialism. As supercapitalism has evolved our democracy has deteriorated under these pressures. ...more
Linda Hartlaub
Feb 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Well now I'm thoroughly cynical about the motives of the leadership in large corporations. Nothing is because a leader is a good guy - it's all about the bottom line. When the CEO or others on the management team send relief supplies to victims of Katrina, Super storm Sandy, a tsunami or an earthquake, is it because it's the right thing to do? Nope. It's done only if it will add to the bottom line. When corporate bigwigs create a compact with respect to the pay and treatment of clothing workers ...more
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Reich offers a succinct, interesting history of the relationship between business and democracy in the last fifty years. Here’s the nutshell, as I see it: in post WW2 America, there was a sort-of detente reached between large companies who made profits through economies of scale, government which used regulation to protect these companies from competition, and trade unions that were able to negotiate strong wages for its workers. This arrangement, made as part of “Democratic Capitalism,” ...more
Dec 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Some was very useful information and a reminder. Corporations are not persons and are not capable of intent. Soem of it was paranoia and second guessing. For instance, I didn't care for the slam against Yahoo for working with China. The author questioned what right Yahoo had to represent the Western way of life. It was said like someone had to vote or present people with the right to do such. Whenever we travel, we represent America, whether intentionally or not. At the same time I say this, I ...more
Interesting read. I could use more persuasion to undergird some of the assumptions that pepper the book that seem a little outside the textbook mainstream, for example, that the change in the 70s that reshaped our economy stems from Cold War technologies like fiber optics and not from the breaking of Bretton-Woods and the oil embargoes. It's not that I refuse to believe that, it's just I could use a fuller treatment.

Also, I think the solutions are a bit thin. I also agree to some extent with the
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The premise of this book is extremely simple: The balance between democracy and capitalism has been thrown off equilibrium. The reason is not a secret conspiracy between D.C. and Wall Street to keep the little people down. One thing that has happened is competition has dramatically increased in all sectors due to technology and globalization, causing firms to invest heavily in the lobbying process - using politics as another area of competitive advantage. This load of noise and money from the ...more
Jun 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is very informative as to the relationship between business and government. Quite simply, under supercapitalism, where business aims only to please investors and customers, messing with the wheels of government is one of only a number of levers a business has to increase profits. The author goes into great detail as to how businesses are able to manipulate customers and politicians into getting exactly what they want. The author makes the point that supercapitalism is here to stay and ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: public_policy
Read it. If you haven't, don't claim to understand the current bizarre situation where Americans act in ways that seems to not be in their own best interest. We are both citizens and capitalists in the 21st century economy. This book explains how we got that way.

I also heard Reich speak. When I asked him in the forum how we could get people being citizens again, and not just consumers, he said something like, "Hillary Clinton would make a great president, but vote for Obama! He'll be more likely
Robert Brents
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Economic history of America in Three Acts
Act I: Free-market economy runs wild
Act II: Government regulation reigns in capitalism's excesses
Act III: Big business solves problem created in Act II by Buying Government
Reich spends 208 pages describing how we got to Act III, then spends the last 16 pages offering a ridiculously simple-minded "solution" that can never succeed in the real world of Act III.
The world is what it is. You can either recognize reality as it is and act accordingly or reality
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Does this book rock or what? That's rhetorical; it rocks. Reich always toes the line between deep economic discussion and an ability relate to the lay reader, people like me. But the information he provides is enlightening and compelling. It's weird to think about but this is an economics book that reads like a page turner ... if you're into understanding how/why the economy works the way it does. Reich seems to have a kind of dry charm that comes off the page when discussing a topic people ...more
Jessica Haider
I like to keep up on current events, but I am by no means an expert on the government or the economy. When Supercapitalism was selected as the monthly pick for one of my book clubs my first thought was “This will be different”. My second thought was “Hmm, I am not sure how everyone in the book club will feel about reading this book.” Our book club reads mostly contemporary fiction and memoirs. This book was a few steps outside of our book club’s comfort zone.

I talked to several other members
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Anytime we start to imagine or say words like "Corporate" and "Social Responsibility" we are deluding ourselves into an altruistic stupor. Not that tapping the corporate sector is bad or inappropriate, but we must be aware that a corporation is a bundled entity of contracts designed to improve share holder profits -- period. When Pepsi puts City Year on its can it definitely benefits City Year but also adds to the share holder value as good PR.

As a companion piece to the World Is Flat -- I read
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Robert Bernard Reich is an American politician, academic, and political commentator. He served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997. Reich is a former Harvard University professor and the former Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He is currently a professor at the ...more
“Supercapitalism has triumphed as power has shifted to consumers and investors. They now have more choice than ever before, and can switch ever more easily to better deals. And competition among companies to lure and keep them continues to intensify. This means better and cheaper products, and higher returns. Yet as supercapitalism has triumphed, its negative social consequences have also loomed larger. These include widening inequality as most gains from economic growth go to the very top, reduced job security, instability of or loss of community, environmental degradation, violations of human rights abroad, and a plethora of products and services pandering to our basest desires. These consequences are larger in the United States than in other advanced economies because America has moved deeper into supercapitalism. Other economies, following closely behind, have begun to experience many of the same things. Democracy is the appropriate vehicle for responding to such social consequences. That’s where citizen values are supposed to be expressed, where choices are supposed to be made between what we want for ourselves as consumers and investors, and what we want to achieve together. But the same competition that has fueled supercapitalism has spilled over into the political process. Large companies have hired platoons of lobbyists, lawyers, experts, and public relations specialists, and devoted more and more money to electoral campaigns. The result has been to drown out voices and values of citizens. As all of this has transpired, the old institutions through which citizen values had been expressed in the Not Quite Golden Age—industry-wide labor unions, local citizen-based groups, “corporate statesmen” responding to all stakeholders, and regulatory agencies—have been largely blown away by the gusts of supercapitalism. Instead of guarding democracy against the disturbing side effects of supercapitalism, many reformers have set their sights on changing the behavior of particular companies—extolling them for being socially virtuous or attacking them for being socially irresponsible. The result has been some marginal changes in corporate behavior. But the larger consequence has been to divert the public’s attention from fixing democracy. 1” 0 likes
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