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Trouble we’re in

As John Kenneth Galbraith turns 90, the American social balance which he celebrated in "The Affluent Society" has disappeared. Widening inequality and an atrophied civic culture seem irreversible, says a man who tried to turn the tide

By Robert Reich   November 1998

John Kenneth Galbraith has been one of the most buoyant dismal scientists of our age. Always lurking within US capitalism, he has argued, are corrective forces which will put back into balance whatever may temporarily have gone awry. In American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power (1952) he debunked the notion of a perfectly competitive modern economy, but reassured readers of the tendency within such a system towards balance between large aggregations of economic power, such as business and labour. Six years later, in The Affluent Society, he urged greater attention to the “social balance” between the production of private…

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