Any cure for America’s economic plight lies deeper than politics as usual, argues an author who believes that a fundamental, radical, systemic transformation offers the possibility of an economic corrective.
Alperovitz (Political Economy/Univ. of Maryland; America Beyond Capitalism, 2004) argues that a faulty sense of history underlies what little faith remains in economic progress through conventional politics. For those who would categorize the New Deal as a political triumph, he counters that it had “a very, very unusual context…in large part made possible by a massive global Depression” and led to “postwar achievements [that] were in significant part made possible by the ongoing impact of a massive (and highly unusual, global-scale) war and its extraordinary aftermath.” In short, great change spawned by great crises, not the working of the political process. The economic disparity between the rich and the masses has since gotten much wider, with no indication that politics can even address the situation, let alone improve it, as the decline of labor unions has left the power of corporate wealth unchecked and unchallenged. Yet the author believes he “offers a reasonably hopeful sense of the future, and a strategy aimed at possibly getting there.” Such hope lies in “the democratization of wealth,” through employee-owned companies, regional co-ops, the systemic transformation of the banking and health care industries into public utilities and an emphasis on “what has often been called the triple bottom line (emphasizing people and planet in addition to profit).” And if such radical restructuring causes some to scream about socialism, he counters that “socialism—real socialism, not the fuzzy kind conservatives try to pin on Barack Obama—is as common as grass…in the United States.”
Alperovitz’s conversational style avoids academic jargon while making complex issues easy (some might say too easy) to digest, but he’s not likely to convince those of the conservative persuasion that a more hopeful future involves more collective action and government consolidation.