One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy

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9780385495035: One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism and the End of Economic Democracy

One Market Under God is a cogent, fiercely entertaining, and often scathing assault on the institutions and pretensions of the new capitalist order and the tyranny of the almighty market.

At no other moment in American history have the values of business and the corporation been more nakedly and arrogantly in the ascendant. In One Market Under God, social critic Thomas Frank examines the morphing of the language of American democracy into the cant and jargon of the marketplace. Combining popular intellectual history with a survey of recent business culture, Frank traces an idea he calls "market populism"-the notion that markets are, in some transcendent way, identifiable with democracy and the will of the people. The belief that any criticism of things as they are is elitist can be seen in management literature, where downsizing and ceaseless, chaotic change are celebrated as victories for democracy; in advertising, where an endless array of brands seek to position themselves as symbols of authenticity and rebellion; on Wall Street, where the stock market is identified as the domain of the small investor and common man; in newspaper publishing, where the vogue for focus-group-guided "civic journalism" is eroding journalistic independence and initiative; and in the right-wing politics of the 1990s and the popular social theories of George Gilder, Lester Thurow, and Thomas Friedman.

Frank's counterattack against the onslaught of market propaganda is mounted with the weapons of common sense, a genius for useful ridicule, and the older American values of economic justice and political democracy. Lucid and intellectually probing, One Market Under God is tinged with anger, betrayal, and a certain hope for the future.

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Review:

After nearly a decade of bull markets, Americans have come to equate free markets with democracy. Never one for mincing words, social critic Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler and author of The Conquest of Cool, challenges this myth. With his acerbic wit and contempt for sophistry, he declares the New Economy a fraud. Frank scours business literature, management theory, and marketing and advertising to expose the elaborate fantasies that have inoculated business against opposition. This public relations campaign joins an almost mystical belief in markets, a contempt for government in any form, and an "ecstatic" confusion of markets with democracy. Frank traces the roots of this movement from the 1920s, and sees its culmination in market populism as a fusion of the rebellious '60s with the greedy '80s. The overarching irony is the swapping of roles--suddenly Wall Street is no longer full of stodgy moneygrubbers, but cool entrepreneurs "leaping on their trampolines, typing out a few last lines on the laptop before paragliding, riding their bicycles to work, listening to Steppenwolf while they traded." Meanwhile, "Americans traded their long tradition of electoral democracy for the democracy of the supermarket, where all brands are created equal and endowed by their creators with all sorts of extremeness and diversity." Frank's close reading of the salesmen of market populism nails such financial gurus as George Gilder, Joseph Nocera, Kevin Kelly, and Thomas Friedman. Their writings, he contends, have served to make "the world safe for billionaires" by winning the cultural and political battle--legitimizing the corporate culture and its demands for privatization, deregulation, and non-interference. Frank's incisive prose verges on brilliant at times, though his yen for repetition can be exasperating. In either case, his boisterous reminder that markets are fundamentally not democracies is worth repeating as the level of wealth polarization in America reaches heights not seen since the 1920s. --Lesley Reed

From the Back Cover:

Praise for One Market Under God:

"Tom Frank is a brilliant pain in the ass. While you may not agree with all he says herein (I threw the book across the room eleven times), his style is always engaging and very frequently funny, and his message-his violent and merciless destruction of the myths of the New Economy-blasts through our willing ignorance and thus must be heard."
-Dave Eggers

"Tom Frank's powerful, incisive, and witty critique of the smug gasbag rhetoric of New Economy gurus like Tom Peters is a work worthy of Mencken and Dwight Macdonald. He doesn't pontificate, he investigates, and his investigation of the link between ad agency 'intellectuals' and 'cult studs' academics, for instance, is a comic tour de force."
-Ron Rosenbaum

"Thomas Frank has cracked the market wide open, laying bare the perversion of reality and abuse of language that corporations, stockbrokers, and much of the academy use to hold the nation in thrall. Read this book. Find out what ails us."
-Earl Shorris

"One Market Under God does for the latter-day market worshippers, cyber-hustlers, and New Economy bubble-blowers what Sinclair Lewis did for the Babbitts and Zenith Chambers of Commerce of the Roaring Twenties."
-Kevin Phillips

"At last, a brave, witty dissent from the hype and cant of the so-called New Economy! Thomas Frank's One Market Under God is an astonishingly well-written argument on behalf of American workers who have seen their jobs disappear, their benefits cut, and their incomes reduced in the name of the great global marketplace... One Market Under God tells us what we won't read in our glossy personal finance magazines, or hear on our all-business channels: our economic elites finally are getting their revenge for the New Deal, and have replaced our sense of community with the values of one market, under God."
-Terry Golway

"How is it that our gilded age permitted the shining ideal of the yeoman farmer to be replaced by the grubby reality of the day trader? Thomas Frank is the first historian to try to tell the hard story of how the metaphor of the marketplace has vanquished every domain of modernity."
-Jack Hitt

"This great book is like a roaring new version of Thomas Carlyle, with a dash of Tom Wolfe: only the bonfire here is on a much higher flame. As Frank shows, American business has been stripping us of our language in a way that makes Cortés and the conquistadores look like crude amateurs. His new book is an exciting dare to all of us to take the language back."
-Thomas Geoghegan

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