Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them
Larry Gonick’s latest book, due out next month, is Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them, written by psychology professor Tim Kasser. He studies people’s “materialistic values and goals for money, possessions, and status” and the relationship between them and well-being. These connections are explained through Gonick’s cartoons.
Hypercapitalism doesn’t have the humor I’m used to from Gonick’s other books. The opening, which introduces Kasser and his studies, explains that there are two parts to come, one darker and one lighter. The first explains capitalism and dissects how the current American model is bad for us. The second talks about social and political action possibilities.
He’s right about the mood of the sections. I found it a struggle to get through the first half, because I’m already aware of many of these problems and abuses. I learned some detail, of course — about just how related our current economic system is to “values incompatible with a sense of personal well-being” — but given how much of a challenge it is to pay attention to the everyday political news without descending into deep depression, it was hard to think about more of the causes that have brought us to where we are now.
For that reason, I’m not sure this book will reach those who most need to read it. Those who don’t know any of this won’t want to be exposed to what they’ll consider propaganda. Those who already know how dangerous and pervasive economic inequality and advertising manipulation are, to name just a couple of the topics covered, will find the whole thing depressing. (Also covered are the problems with corporations, building the drive to consumerism, multi-national globalization, and exploitation of labor, among other topics.)
Thank goodness for the second half, which explores thoughtful purchasing in concert with values we want to propagate, choosing simplicity, and sharing and other communal behaviors. It’s a small sign of hope when confronted with the overwhelming historical, political, and economic forces arrayed on behalf of corporations. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)