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The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy [Paperback]

Noreena Hertz
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 4 2003

Of the world's 100 largest economies, 51 are now corporations, only 49 are nation-states. The sales of General Motors and Ford are greater than the gross domestic product of the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, and Wal-Mart now has a turnover higher than the revenues of most of the states of Eastern Europe. Yet few of us understand fully the growing dominance of big business.

Widely acclaimed economist Noreena Hertz brilliantly reveals how corporations across the world manipulate and pressure governments by means both legal and illegal; how protest is becoming a more effective political weapon than the ballot-box; and how corporations are taking over from the state responsibility for everything from providing technology for schools to healthcare for the community.

The Silent Takeover asks us to recognize the growing contradictions of a world divided between haves and have-nots, of gated communities next to ghettos, of extreme poverty and unbelievable wealth. In the face of these unacceptable extremes, Noreena Hertz outlines a new agenda to revitalize politics and renew democracy.



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From Publishers Weekly

Cambridge University economist Hertz asserts that Reagan's and Thatcher's brand of free market capitalism has had dire social and political repercussions, although it has triumphed as the dominant world ideology and brought prosperity to many. She sensibly argues that with government in retreat from its traditional rule-setter role, multinational corporations have grown so powerful 51 of the hundred biggest economies in the world are corporations that they determine political policies rather than operate subject to them. Market success may rule, but Hertz laments that the state, in appearing to serve business, may be nullifying democracy's social contract to represent and protect the rights of all citizens equally. WTO protests and activism reinforce her sense of growing political discontent not only about income distribution effects (97% of the increase in income over the past 20 years in the U.S. has gone to the top 20% of the families) but also about human rights issues. Campaign finance realities, declining voter participation, increasing alienation and terrorism amid glowing corporate results represent an urgent cry for reform to Hertz. Since corporations are not designed and cannot be expected to serve a general population's social and political needs, she argues that democracies need to move toward a realignment between the state's political power and the corporations' economic power so that all people have a positive stake in world economic progress. Hertz maps out a proposed agenda, and her eloquent call to action deserves the attention of every concerned citizen of our troubled world.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the new global economy, the rule of government has taken a backseat to the power of big business. Corporations control much of the way we live, from the quality of the food on our plates to the news we consume through the media. According to Hertz, NAFTA and the WTO allow a small group of unelected officials who answer to no one but big multinational corporations to make secret rulings that can override the laws of nations in the name of fair trade. Although it's depressing to read her account of the market rule we live under, she does offer hope. In a society of consumerism, individuals do have power when they vote with their pocketbooks. Protest is back, and the Internet has become a powerful medium for dissenting voices. Not only that, investigative journalism, boycotts, and sensitivity to their public image have suddenly made business leaders mindful of ethics. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading April 30 2005
Format:Paperback
The Silent Takeover by Noreena Hertz is a readable and reasoned critique of globalization from a capitalist perspective.
Hertz, professor of international business at the University of Cambridge, argues that global trade and economic development has become seriously unbalanced in favour of multinational corporations, and that governments have become little more than handmaidens to corporate interests.
Hertz argues that after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe the right-wing in the United States, Britain, Canada, and much of the rest of the developed world vilified the redistributive role of government in society and forced governments to retreat from involvement in the economy.
Known as the Washington Consensus, this movement made International Monetary Fund and other institutional loans to nation-states contingent on government deregulation and trade liberalization. Hertz contends that this retreat from the public sphere has increase inequality and poverty throughout the world and reduced governments to handmaidens for corporations. She writes:
"The role of nation states has become to a large extent simply that of providing the public goods and services that business needs at the lowest cost while protecting the world's free trade system."
Heertz points-out that many Asian governments rejected the imposition of American-style capitalism and regularly intervene in the market for social, political and economic reasons. Although these countries are subjected to the same vicissitudes as states operating on other economic principles, they continue to prosper and some have been so successful they are considered threats by many "First World" states.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and worth a look. June 6 2004
Format:Paperback
The author took this reader on an emotional whirlwind depiction of the state of mind of anti-globalism activism in the United States and Europe, for which I am grateful. Let me recall:
Corporations are intrinsically untrustworthy even when they try to do good. Rather than profitably sell goods to people at market clearing prices, they may choose to destroy or brutalize them (last chapter).
Governments are more trustworthy, as more representative, than corporations--although they refuse to listen to anti-globalism activists.
The street politics of anti-globalism protesters represent legitimate democratic interests that must be acted upon even if or though most citizens in the West disagree with their goals, and this will enhance democracy. This is true even though these protesters are, according to the author, particularly unlikely to vote.
The steadily rising per capita incomes of the world population has not brought all persons a level of wealth and leisure satisfactory to anti-globalist activists. This must be rectified immediately.
The shrinking of Western governments as a result of internal distributive demands outpacing the willingness of citizens to render more tax receipts and politicians lacking the courage to demand those additional receipts makes it likely that corporations are more able to effect positive change than are governments, at times and in places.
Since governments are more trustworthy than corporations, however, tax receipts must be increased dramatically, even if democratic governments and their citizens reject this. This means the UN, especially, needs global taxing authority to further the international distributionist demands of anti-globalist activists.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Introductory Feb. 3 2004
Format:Paperback
The best feature of this book is the author's fetching photo. The second best is her cool chapter headings. Unfortunately, the content places third. By the standards of a Sunday paper or magazine piece it's very good, but from a professor I was expecting something more intellectually impressive, perhaps pathbreaking. This is simply a well-written introduction (with a pronounced left-wing bias).
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to an important subject Oct. 30 2003
Format:Paperback
I liked this book; it was amazingly easy to read, without being trite or condescending. Many of the stories and anecdotes I knew from other readings, but there was new material, and all of it was well done in the telling.
This was not heavy going, nor was it an ill-structured string of disjointed stories.
I recommend it as an excellent introduction to the issues.
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Format:Hardcover
"The Silent Takeover" refers to the growing power of corporations vis-à-vis counties that is caused by global capitalism. Noreen Hertz argues that multinational corporations have become very powerful and politicians very weak; her thesis is best captured in this sentence: "by giving corporate wishes such priority, by defining themselves solely in terms of economic success, by supporting international institutions that value economic interests above all else, governments are in danger of becoming the puppets of business" (p.86).
But, as Dr. Hertz recognizes, this is nothing new. Indeed, one of the book's defects is the inability to connect global capitalism with many of the current trends. If anything, globalization lessens the grip that business have on politicians by opening up markets; as The Economist put it, "Far from empowering global fat cats, free trade holds corporate power in check and assaults the excess profits that protectionism, courtesy of pro-business politicians, gouges from the public" (28 Jun 03).
Still, Dr. Hertz raises some issues that are distinctively global: industry migration and tax competition. But Dr. Hertz seems to accept these arguments without skepticism: for example, she has a page-long citation on the debate about the "dirty industry migration" argument; after a dozen citations, she reduces her stance to saying that the argument makes intuitive sense, which is hardly a responsible stance in so contested a debate.
For all its defects, "The Silent Takeover" is right to point out that businesses are gaining power through politics, and that fixing the system requires some disconnection between them. That's the real message to take home from this book.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Commendable
Globalism..you've all heard of it. But what is it?. Why has there been huge opposition towards it in other parts of the world, while here at home we just shrug it off as we head... Read more
Published on June 17 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars to Chris from New York
Chris. You seem to have things mixed when describing globalization.
First off LTCM was NOT bailed out by the government. Read more
Published on May 25 2003 by Alexander R. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening
Not the usual kind of book I would read, but something caught my attention, you have to read it to believe it! Read more
Published on May 17 2003 by Richard P Barnes
3.0 out of 5 stars Critique Light, but useful
Whether done silently or not, the author makes the case for the fact that huge transnational corporations (TNCs) have taken on the societal role that formerly fell to governments... Read more
Published on May 2 2003 by J. Grattan
5.0 out of 5 stars An Erudite & Fascinating Look At Transnationals!
The thesis in this extremely well written and eminently readable tome runs along what is by now the well-worn path of a number of other neo-Luddite authors like Sales Kirkpatrick... Read more
Published on March 21 2003 by Barron Laycock
4.0 out of 5 stars What Everyone Needs to Know
This is a timely, thoughtful book that should be on each student's and citizen's bookshelf. The author describes how global capitalism has fundamentally restructure the... Read more
Published on March 14 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Restricted Views Forgetting Peccadilloes Of Marx & Keynes!
I came away feeling sorry for the author who has so little solutions for the problems created by Keynesian Economics that left the world into the depths of debts. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2003 by J. Janos
2.0 out of 5 stars Princess Di Reasoning
The thesis of this book is that in a global economy central planning is better than the free market. Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2003
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