By Charles E. Lindblom

lindblom the market system
Editions:Hardcover: $ 40.00 USD
ISBN: 9780300087529
Paperback: $ 16.95 USD
ISBN: 9780300093346

In the wake of the collapse of communism, we hear much about the victory of the “market system.” Just what is the market system? This clear and accessible book begins by answering this question, then goes on to explain how the market system works and what it can and cannot do. Charles E. Lindblom, writing in nontechnical language for a wide general audience, offers an evenhanded view of the market system. His analysis of the great questions that surround the market system is sometimes unexpected, always illuminating:

  • Is the market system efficient?
  • Is it democratic?
  • Does it despoil the environment?
  • Does it perpetuate inequalities?
  • Does it debase personality and culture?

Big choices are yet to be made about the future of the market system, observes Lindblom. He outlines what these choices are and how they will affect not only our economic well-being but also our social and political lives. For market systems organize or coordinate more than just the flow of commodities, he shows. They influence human behavior in all its dimensions.

Reviews:Richard N. Cooper on Foreign Affairs wrote:

"Yale economist Lindblom takes his readers back to basics and provides a reasoned, accessible discourse on what a market system is, what it can plausibly do, and what its limitations are. Both praise and criticism of the market system may be misplaced, he argues, because their real targets may be technology, urbanization, or industrialization. The author sees a market system as a fundamental coordinating mechanism that adjusts the desires of households, firms, and governments. He sees no discernable alternative in modern, complex societies. But he does believe there is ample room for tweaking the market system along the lines desired by each society."

Waheed Hussein on Business Ethics Quarterly wrote:

" Charles Lindblom has long been one of the country's most interesting political theorists writing about the economy. In The Market System, he offers the general reader an excellent guide to thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of a market economy. Half of the book is devoted to an analysis of the market as a social institution. [...] The other half of the book is devoted to assessing the market in terms of values such as efficiency, freedom, culture and democracy. [...] It would serve well as a companion piece to any general course on the normative dimensions of market society."

Anonymous on Publishers Weekly wrote:

"Lindblom explains what this "market system" is, details how it works, makes a strong case for its advantages and keenly outlines some of its limitations. Exploring the relationship between markets and democracy, for instance, he points out that while it's true that all democratic societies have market systems, we can't conclude that markets always foster democracy, because many antidemocratic societies also have market systems. Addressing nothing less than the nature of cooperation in human society, his discussion spans history, philosophy and political theory, an unusually multidisciplinary approach for an economics text. Lindblom, a professor of economics and political science at Yale University, also explores the relation of the market system to efficiency, ethics, social equality, power, the natural environment and culture. Posing bold questions such as "[I]s there in our time an alternative to the market system... ?" Lindblom provides refreshingly few definitive answers, making his the most mild-mannered economics book published in some time, as well as one of the most cerebral."


Additional Info

Extremely critical discussion of the book by the Missus Institute, a free market think thank

Table of Contents

  1. Market System Ascendant
Part One:
How it Works
  1. Society's Coordination
  2. Market-System Coordination
  3. Bones Beneath Flesh
  4. Enterprise and Corporation
  5. Maximum Reach
  6. Chosen Domain
Part Two:
What to Make of It
  1. Quid Pro Quo
  2. What Efficiency Requires
  3. Market-System Efficiency
  4. Inefficiencies
  5. Too Little, Too Late
  6. Freedom
  7. Personality and Culture
  8. Persuading the Masses
  9. Necessary to Democracy?
Part Three:
Thinking about Choices
  1. Alternative Market Systems
  2. An Alternative to the Market System?

About Charles E. Lindblom

Charles E. Lindblom (1917-2018) was Sterling Professor Emeritus of Economics and Political Science at Yale University. His prize-winning books include Inquiry and Change: The Troubled Attempt to Understand and Shape Society and Politics and Markets: The World’s Political-Economic Systems.