21ST CENTURY CAPITALISM by Robert Heilbroner

21ST CENTURY CAPITALISM

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another elegant inquiry from Heilbroner (The Nature and Logic of Capitalism, 1985, etc.), this based on lectures he gave in Canada last autumn. As is his wont, Heilbroner reaches a less-than-definitive conclusion here--that capitalism in the next century will take an assortment of variantly successful forms. With Heilbroner, though, the discursive and judgmental journey tends to be the reward. Before speculating on free enterprise's future, he provides an extensive critique of its past--a critique informed by a decidedly statist vision. Having distinguished between physical wealth (like precious gems or metals) and capital (endlessly employed as a means of amassing additional assets), he argues that, even in an increasingly interdependent global economy, government is an indispensable source of strength for the private sector. Heilbroner goes on to point out the limitations of markets as self-ordering mechanisms, noting that in certain circumstances they can aggravate shortages. Nor does he put much stock in the capacity of profit- oriented activities to address (let alone solve) environmental problems; create infrastructure; ensure productive educational programs; harness potentially disruptive new technologies; and make other needed contributions to the common good. Toward the close, Heilbroner observes that the laissez-faire scenarios offered by such dismal-science luminaries as Hayek, Keynes, Marx, Schumpeter, and Smith have proved either incomplete or in error. He contends that, to survive and thrive, capitalism must adapt the elements of socialism that could curb acquisitiveness, dysfunctional injustice, indifference, and other of a demonstrably viable system's deficiencies, albeit without stifling its Çlan vital. Perceptive analyses of a resilient economic regime whose sociopolitical accountability still leaves much to be desired.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03516-6
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993




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