Virtually everyone—left, right, and center—believes that capitalist economies are autonomous, coherent, and regulated by their own internal laws. This view is an illusion. The reality is that economies organized around the pursuit of private profit are contradictory, incoherent, and heavily shaped by politics and governmental action. But the illusion remains hugely consequential because it has been embraced by political and economic elites who are convinced that they are powerless to change this system. The result is cycles of raised hopes followed by disappointment as elected officials discover they have no legitimate policy tools that can deliver what the public wants. In Capitalism, leading economic sociologist Fred L. Block argues that restoring the vitality of the United States and the world economy can be accomplished only with major reforms on the scale of the New Deal and the post–World War II building of new global institutions.
Fred L. Block is Research Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis. He is the coauthor, with Margaret Somers, of The Power of Market Fundamentalism.
“Fred L. Block is one of America’s most important political theorists. His work transcends the usual division between liberals and conservatives. In this book, he shows that capitalism, far from being the immutable system that the left wants to demolish and that the center and right think must be coddled, is a human creation that depends on constant intervention and is malleable and reformable. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to get beyond the sterile debate taking place in Washington.”— John B. Judis, author of The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics
“In Capitalism, Block proposes an original kind of intellectual history. He examines the entrenched belief that capitalism is the only possibility and shows how this prevents us from imagining alternatives to the economic arrangements that rule the world. Against an ecologically destructive capitalism and stunted imaginations, Block argues for new ways of inhabiting our planet. Habitation and innovation must be linked, not as enemies but as complements.”—Magali Sarfatti Larson, author of The Rise of Professionalism: A Sociological Analysis
“In lucid and lively prose, Block examines how the belief that our economy is ’capitalist’ limits our collective capacity to construct alternative economic institutions. Taking aim at both left and right versions of economic determinism, Block suggests that the possibilities for building an economy that better serves human needs are in fact much less constrained than we typically imagine. While not everyone will agree that we can or should dispense with the concept of capitalism, no serious student of political economy can avoid grappling with Block’s important and timely provocation.”—Greta Krippner, author of Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance