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Supercapitalism, by Bob Reich 12 août 2008

Par Thierry Klein dans : Critiques, Entreprise altruiste.
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Let me tell you first that this book is truly the simplest, therefore the most brilliant, explanation of how capitalism has evolved over the last decades.

If I may allow a short criticism, I think the “analysis” part of the book is much more convincing than the “proposed solutions”. Bob Reich is probably perfectly aware of this.

Another point: Bob Reich rightly points to the abuses of lobbying but forgets to mention that lobbying in itself is just the tip of a huge advertising iceberg. Lobbying is just to politicians what advertising is to citizens. What he has felt as a politician, he does not realize it yet as a citizen.

Globalization is linked to the transformation of citizens into consumers and the force behind this is advertising - I don’t mean that advertising WANTS this. Unlike political propaganda, advertising has no real “will”, good or evil. But cumulatively, it does however make the job. I believe an analysis of worldwide advertising/ communication budgets would easily show that there is a strong correlation between globalization and advertising.

This has consequences about democracy itself. Bob Reich writes that politicians don’t do the job because “true causes” are not on their agenda, due to lobbying. But citizens, so far, do not really want the job to be done either : they just behave as consumers.

Taking the right measures therefore implies some kind of elitist democracy: a democracy where knowledgeable, enlighted politicians act “for the best”, partly against the will of their own electors who don’t understand the issues. (We are much more familiar with that kind of democracy in France than US citizens are, let me tell you however that it does not end up with the “right” decisions either, it ends up in state sclerosis !).

I think that the power of advertising in part comes from the fact that it creates immediate consumer needs, that are opposed to long term citizens - and worker - needs. (The need to buy a cheap plasma screen today conducts to closing your own factory, but only tomorrow, which makes it difficult to catch the link). Technology has also made advertising is also more and more pervasive (newspapers are less pervasive than radio, which is less pervasive than TV, which is less pervasive than Google sponsorized links, the latter being almost subliminally read when you surf on the Internet).

You can’t really fight the present situation and remain in democracy if you don’t limit the effects of advertising. You can think of creating spaces that would be “advertsing free” (TV channels like the BBC) or even, treat advertising like tobacco was treated and take 5 or 10% of all communication/advertising budgets to sponsor NGOs or “recognized altruistic organizations” so that they also can access to brains and act as counterweights.

Having read Bob Reich’s book in depth, I am fully conscious of the difficulty to recognize a “truly altruistic cause”, but I also recognize this blog ticket is too long already and don’t want to bother you too much with practical details at this stage.

Billets associés :


1. Robert Reich - 12 août 2008

Dear M. Klein,

Thank you for your kind words and your interesting analysis. I had hoped both to inform and stimulate a debate about the very issues you mention.

Best wishes,

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