Supercapitalism Got Me Thinking

Posted on July 7, 2010


I must admit I strayed outside my typical reading boundaries when I picked up Robert B. Reich’s Supercapitalism. I am the richer for it.

Instead of casting blame for the economic maladies of the United States, Reich defines and clarifies the issues that have merged to create the gross inequality of wealth in America. He plainly displays the logical consequences that flow from our everyday decisions to increase profit, ROI, and save a dollar on T-shirts. His concern is that capitalism has triumphed as the expense of democracy.

Reich does define a problem. Whether or not one agrees with his recommended responses to the issues, the book is of extreme value for understanding the course of modern day capitalism.

A “Must-Read” Chapter

Chapter three, “Of Two Minds,” is one of the best and succinct descriptions of the contradictory battles going on in the lives of most responsible Americans. In this chapter, Reich highlights the unattainable balancing act of living our lives as good citizens and also as thrifty consumers and wise investors. Here, he enlightens the mind to an understanding of how our search for a good deal often leads to undesired fallout such as lower wages, sweat shops, child labor, environmental abuse, the spread of porn, obesity and other health problems.


Much of what Reich confronts is being wildly illustrated on every American newscast at the moment. The timing of my reading could not have been better. As I write this post, there is a huge environmental disaster taking place off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. A BP oil well is gushing oil at an uncontrollable rate. This disaster has the attention of the whole nation. Ironically, Reich, in Supercapitalism, often referenced BP’s efforts to increase profits at the expense of maintenance and safety. He references “BP’s carelessness” and “BP’s corporate culture of seeming indifference to environmental issues.” (Supercapitalism was published in 2007.)


Here are a few of my favorite ideas, thoughts and quotes from Supercapitalism:

  • As consumers and investors we want the great deals. As citizens we don’t like many of the social consequences that flow from them.
  • Human beings are remarkably adept at rationalizing comfortable arrangements.
  • Corporations under supercapitalism no longer have the discretion to be virtuous.
  • Companies donate money only to the extent it has public relations value.
  • Protecting the Amazon is surely a worthwhile goal but protecting people from obesity and diabetes is, too, (In reference to Ben & Jerry’s environmental efforts).
  • Citizen and consumer values are easily reconciled when one is rich enough to afford both.
Posted in: Book Review