Book Review: The Silent Takeover
Title: The Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy (GoodReads)
Author: Noreena Hertz
Page Count: 304
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.
I loved the idea behind this book. Given our current economic state and my distrust of corporations, I figured this book would be right up my alley. And it was, for the most part. It provided some great information about what got us here. It showed both the positive and negative aspects of business, which I wasn’t expecting but appreciated. This isn’t a book that just blindly attacks corporations. It definitely shares its reasons and lists examples of times when corporations actually do good things – even if those good things are usually in their own best interest.
I wish I had read this book when it first came out, though. This book came out in 2003, and a lot has changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, we were still in first term of Bush’s presidency, and we were coming off of the surplus years of Clinton. The country (and probably the world) is in much worse shape now than it was ten years ago. We’ve had the Occupy Wall Street protests that have called our attention to the income disparity in this country. None of this is the fault of the book or the author, but it does mean that this book doesn’t do well with age.
This book was also a bit wordy at times. She could have gotten to her point a lot quicker than she did, and there were times when what she was arguing didn’t really seem to fit with her overall thesis. There was a lot of good information, but it wasn’t really presented in the best way all of the time. And as much as I liked that she showed both sides of corporations, the way she presented that information at first made it sound like she was changing her argument halfway through the book. Of course, it’s also possible that I just got distracted while reading and missed a transition or something.
Overall, this was a good book. It provided a lot of great information that is still relevant today. That said, this book is ten years old, and I spent half of the book wondering “I wonder how this is different today.”