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Robert Reich's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Robert Reich recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Robert Reich's favorite book recommendations of all time.


The Theory of the Leisure Class

Almost a century after its original publication, Thorstein Veblen's work is as fresh and relevant as ever. Veblen's The Theory of the Leisure Class is in the tradition of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, yet it provides a surprisingly contemporary look at American economics and society. Establishing such terms as "conspicuous consumption" and "pecuniary emulation," Veblen's most famous work has become an archetype not only of economic theory, but of historical and sociological thought as well. As sociologist Alan Wolfe writes in his... more
Recommended by Robert Reich, and 1 others.

Robert ReichIt was a critique of consumerism, but it was particularly a critique of consumerism by the very wealthy. Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption”. Less well remembered is his phrase “conspicuous leisure”. Veblen saw the importance of social status as a motivator in capitalism. He was the first to understand that one of the reasons that people desperately wanted to become rich was not... (Source)

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The subject of The Wheels of Commerce is the development of mechanisms of exchange—shops, markets, trade networks, and banking—in the pre-industrial stages of capitalism. less
Recommended by Robert Reich, and 1 others.

Robert ReichAs you said, Braudel’s book is the second in this series. Civilization and Capitalism is a monumental undertaking. In these three volumes, Braudel did what no one else had attempted before and he did it more successfully than anyone I know of, that is to try to understand the beginning of capitalism – particularly the kind of capitalism that has now become dominant in the world, the capitalism... (Source)

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The New Industrial State

With searing wit and incisive commentary, John Kenneth Galbraith redefined America's perception of itself in The New Industrial State, one of his landmark works. The United States is no longer a free-enterprise society, Galbraith argues, but a structured state controlled by the largest companies. Advertising is the means by which these companies manage demand and create consumer "need" where none previously existed. Multinational corporations are the continuation of this power system on an international level. The goal of these companies is not the betterment of society, but... more
Recommended by Robert Reich, and 1 others.

Robert ReichGalbraith is best known for his book The Affluent Society, which predates The New Industrial State. But in many ways The New Industrial State is more interesting because here again we have an economist who reaches beyond the narrow scope of economics and sees economics and social life in a broader frame. (Source)

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The Promise Of American Life

This collection chronicles the fiction and non fiction classics by the greatest writers the world has ever known. The inclusion of both popular as well as overlooked pieces is pivotal to providing a broad and representative collection of classic works. less
Recommended by Franklin Foer, Robert Reich, and 2 others.

Franklin FoerThe book provided the clearest distillation of American liberalism to date: “The use of Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends.” From the foundation of this country, there was a great debate between Hamiltonians, who had a vision of a strong state, and Jeffersonians, who advocated a yeoman’s republic with limited government. The genius of that aphorism is that it synthesises what liberals... (Source)

Robert ReichIt was written in 1909 and it had an electrifying effect on America and in the formation of modern American capitalism. Teddy Roosevelt used the book in formulating his so-called “New Nationalism” which he presented to the country shortly thereafter. Barack Obama used the occasion marking Teddy Roosevelt’s speech in Kansas in 1911 on New Nationalism – I believe it was the 100th anniversary of the... (Source)

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Democracy in America

Democracy in America has had the singular honor of being even to this day the work that political commentators of every stripe refer to when they seek to draw large conclusions about the society of the USA. Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat, came to the young nation to investigate the functioning of American democracy & the social, political & economic life of its citizens, publishing his observations in 1835 & 1840. Brilliantly written, vividly illustrated with vignettes & portraits, Democracy in America is far more than a trenchant analysis of... more

Karl RoveTocqueville was seized by the sharp contrast between Paris and America, where people did not wait for the central government, but went ahead on their own, and I think that’s vital part of what it is to be both an American and a vital part of what is America. (Source)

Yuval LevinIt lays out how ideas are translated into political institutions, and even more so into mores and habits and practices of everyday life. (Source)

Robert ReichTocqueville was not only a brilliant sociologist but he also saw the connections between American society and the budding capitalism of the 1830s. (Source)

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