ForeWord Review: The cultural, social, and political movement begun by the American revolution is as alive as ever. Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political economy at the University of Maryland, has penned a thoughtful guide for participating in that ongoing revolution. What Then Must We Do? should be required reading for every concerned citizen in the United States.
Alperovitz writes, “it is possible, easiest and best to discuss the really important points about our crumbling American system, and what to do about it, in language that is understandable and accessible.” clearly and conversationally, the author well documents his observation that the American system is crumbling. He notes that the United States, while one of the wealthiest of countries, ranks close to the lowest among advanced countries in categories such as equality, infant mortality, poverty, and life expectancy. The trends in many areas, he argues, indicate that politics, as practiced in this country, no longer responds to the major issues affecting Americans. “What I am asking you to ponder with me is the simple fact that the system (the way that underlying institutional power is currently arranged) seems now to be producing outcomes, year in and year out, that do not much respond to the old theory of politics.”
The author goes beyond the finger pointing utilized by many polemicists, and he does not abandon a basic commitment to American democratic ideals. Rejecting traditional corporate capitalism as having failed the basic needs of the majority, Alperovitz argues enthusiastically for citizens to take ownership of the means of producing wealth. He points to many examples of where people working together have improved their local economy and quality of life. He explains B corporations, allowed under the laws of several states, charged with a mission to provide benefits to the community as well as return a profit to the shareholders. He reminds the reader that there are community-based banking institutions, credit unions, which benefit all their members.
Combining the best attributes of a realist with those of a dreamer, Alperovitz honestly describes the problems facing the American community, while offering an attainable progressive alternative. He concludes with a Margaret Meade quote reminding us we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Library Journal Review: [Gar] Alperovitz (political economy, Univ. of Maryland; America Beyond Capitalism) alternately elicits hope and despair in his discussion of the state of America’s current economic system—despair because he believes it no longer works and hope in the spreading economic democratization and successful cooperatives and progressive local government ventures. Alperovitz states that corporate politics and policies that deliberately transfer wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy, not to mention the sustained attack on labor unions, demonstrate that the American social system is fundamentally broken. He asserts that early 20th-century progressivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society helped save America in times of crisis, and that a new paradigm in which social, environmental, and democratic policies reside at the forefront of our political and economic development is needed. VERDICT Alperovitz’s sophisticated tone both informs and engages. Recommended for all readers interested in an economic and political perspective of what’s gone wrong with America.
Booklist Review: With the gulf between the wealthy haves and unwealthy have-nots growing year by year in America, more and more people are becoming disenchanted with so-called free-market capitalism. Political economist [Gar] Alperovitz takes the pulse of this collective fiscal dissatisfaction here and offers some tantalizing but well- grounded ideas about closing the income gap without sliding into socialism. The author begins by deconstructing politics as usual and deflating the notion that progressive policies can provide much real guidance. Because banks are more stable these days, major crises like the recent recession are also unlikely to provoke much transformation. According to Alperovitz, something different beyond token protests and special-interest groups is necessary for true systemic change, and this difference comes in the form of more worker-owned and -operated companies, neighborhood corporations, and locally run public enterprises. Alperovitz’s deliberately informal, conversational style makes normally rarefied economic concepts accessible to a wide audience, enhancing his inspiring message that, with the right strategies, a wholesale economic revolution is not only possible but achievable by well-organized, average citizens. — Carl Hays
Publishers Weekly Review: Alperovitz (America Beyond Capitalism), a University of Maryland political economist and cofounder of the Democracy Collaborative, transcends simple political disenchantment to examine the intertwining of political and economic power and the need to develop new institutions that help the 99% obtain more of both. The atypical conditions that made possible the postwar boom fostered the development of institutions that now are losing strength. With a nod to Tolstoy, Alperovitz encourages the reader to ponder how to redress the staggeringly unequal distribution of wealth. His survey of the American landscape highlights co-ops, employee stock ownership plans, publicly owned utilities and hospitals, and other already-successful alternatives to the for-profit corporate model. By so doing, he persuasively argues, new constituencies tied to these alternative models will emerge. His emphasis throughout is on the local level, as if to emphasize the movement toward a new American community that he espouses. The reader is certain to find his views challenging, even if the schism between conventional corporatism and “New Age” practices that Alperovitz envisions seems to evoke the gulf between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (May)
Kirkus Review: 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. … 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.