Is Capitalism Obsolete?: A Journey through Alternative Economic Systems

In This Review

Is Capitalism Obsolete?: A Journey through Alternative Economic Systems
By Giacomo Corneo. Translated By Daniel Steuer
Harvard University Press, 2017
312 pp.

Capitalism is increasingly unpopular, especially in Europe. This intriguing book opens and closes with a spirited dialogue between a young woman skeptical of capitalism and her father, Corneo, an economist who is keeping the faith, albeit not without reservations. Corneo takes seriously the many criticisms of capitalism as it is practiced today but insists that detractors must confront the question of which alternative systems could realistically meet contemporary society’s economic needs. In this sweeping and informative discussion of the role of economy in society, he explores alternative systems, both hypothetical and real, and finds them all inferior to capitalism. The book then addresses how the modern welfare state has tempered capitalism’s worst features but has eroded since the late twentieth century—a development that is responsible for much of today’s public disillusionment with the free-market system. Corneo considers how the welfare state might be revived under current conditions, which would require new incentives for politicians and civil servants to construct a sturdier safety net.

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