Top positive review
An Immensely Ambitious Book
Reviewed in the United States on December 6, 2018
The Future of Capitalism is an immensely ambitious book. Written for an educated but non-technical audience, Collier explicitly states that he wants the ideas in this book to heal the current socio-economic crisis and ground capitalist states for the next generation.
Instead of trying to argue about whether Collier’s effort is successful, something impossible to achieve in a brief review, I would rather summarize Collier’s major ideas. In this way the prospective reader can judge for himself/herself whether the book’s project is something they would entertain reading.
Collier’s primary diagnosis of the ills confronting capitalism is that it relies on an oversimplified understanding of the individual. Based on the ideas of Bentham and Mill, economists have tended to view human beings as simply making rational decisions to maximize utility. By doing so, they’ve left out key dimensions of human psychology, primarily the need for social esteem or respect. Because of this highly individualistic philosophy Western societies have lost the social cohesion that marked the period from 1945-1970.
Added to this is an increasingly simplified notion of the firm. Based on the ideas of Milton Friedman, the firm is supposed to solely maximize profits. Any responsibilities outside of this to its employees/consumers is ignored.
In keeping with these two fallacious notions, conservatives have increasingly viewed their task as simply removing government from the market. Liberals have tended to see themselves as an enlightened elite who must steer the economy to monetarily compensate those whom the market hasn’t sufficiently rewarded.
In place of this Collier calls for social maternalism. A state which, eschewing ideology, makes pragmatic policy choices to build a true national community and makes certain that all citizens have the possibility for a life resulting in social respect.
Collier’s analysis is, of course, much more detailed and his pragmatic policy recommendations are manifold. But I hope I’ve given the prospective reader an idea of how ambitious this book is and whether the type of ideas conveyed would be of interest.
Personally, for what it’s worth, I found myself agreeing with Collier’s depiction of the current socio-economic climate but doubtful as to whether his policy prescriptions would be enough to provide a remedy. But I still gave the book five stars because, to my knowledge, there are few academics willing to write for a non-technical audience a book with ambitions such as these.
Relatively easy to read, with clear prose and ample examples to drive the narrative, I hope the book is given the serious consideration it deserves. In short, for those who worry about the future of capitalist societies a must read.