By Fred L. Block
- The Power of Market Fundamentalism; Karl Polanyi’s Critique (2014)
- Capitalism; The Future of an Illusion (2018)
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; The Future of an Illusion, 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.
Table of Contents of Capitalism; The Future of an Illusion
- The Capitalist Illusion
- Elaborating an Alternative
- The Illusion That Democracy Threatens the Economy
- The Illusion That Greed Is Good
- The Illusion of an Unchanging System
- The Illusion of Global Order Organized by Capitalism
- Beyond Illusions
Interview with Fred Block about the Book
A 24-minute interview by The Institute for New Economic Thinking:
"The overall picture of economic reality that Block draws is basically consistent with the wisdom presented in the older and copious international scholarly literature about the 'varieties of capitalism,' which, he claims, 'has been drowned out by the hegemonic view that capitalism is a unified and largely unchanging system. . . whose inner logic must be obeyed' (13), as though it were the 'fixed DNA' of a living organism (144) rather than a set of institutional arrangements built and modified in all sorts of ways throughout modern history (cf. especially chap. 5). This drowning out of alternative conceptions and awareness of historical variants of capitalism is most likely to have occurred in Block’s United States. It is less likely to be so in countries such as Brazil, Switzerland, Sweden, Vietnam, Iran or Germany—and many others, for that matter—where pundits and politicians regularly refer to far less orthodox theories and experiences such as ordo-liberalism, the Social Doctrine of the Church, Marxism, the Scandinavian middle way, Islamic banking, et cetera. Though geographically navel-gazing, Block’s assessment of the American intellectual
bamboozlement and misdirection vis-à-vis economic matters is revealing and commendable. A book like his Capitalism; The Future of an Illusion, which reprises and condenses dissenting notions and observations going from Adam Smith to Viviana Zelizer, is certainly most urgent in today’s United States [...] Finally, a note on Block’s prose, which is sharp, unaffected, and devoid of cumbersome jargon and fastidious technicality. His informed, synthetic overviews of significant historical cases of successful economic development (e.g. nineteenth-century America, 71–77) or more or less disastrous decline (e.g. 1990s Russia, 37–39, and the gold standard regime, 162–64) are true gems of crystal-clear and intelligent brevity. As such, his book should appeal to the educated public at large, well beyond the confines of academia alone."
Lecture by Block on Capitalism; The Future of an Illusion
About Fred Block
Fred Block is emeritus professor at the sociology department of the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in economic sociology and political sociology. Block’s recent writing focuses on innovation in the U.S. economy, the intellectual legacy of Karl Polanyi, and the critique of free market economics. He also leads the Center for Engaged Scholarship, that provides fellowship support for Ph.D. students in the social sciences whose work has the potential to make U.S. society more egalitarian, more democratic, and more environmentally sustainable.