The Future of Capitalism: How Today’s Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow’s World. Lester C. Thurow. William Morrow & Company.

The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World Book Cover The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World
Lester C. Thurow
William Morrow & Company
January 1996

In his previous New York Times best-seller Head to Head, Lester C. Thurow described an economic war among the world players surviving the cold war period and showed us how the United States could emerge a winner. Now, with the end of communism, and with the world’s major powers all pursuing the same economic system, he helps us see what capitalism has become and where it is going.

According to Thurow, we are living in a period of great economic change, when various factors are playing off each other and radically altering the world. But these changes also make for an exciting time, ripe with enormous opportunities for those equipped to take advantage of the storms ahead. In The Future of Capitalism, he examines the major forces causing economic disequilibrium and charts a course for profiting from today’s world in flux.

Like the shifting plates of the earth’s surface, world changes influence the economic game with nearly imperceptible movements that have enormous effects in the long-term. In geology, entire continents are created and lost through the plates’ activity. Keeping with Thurow’s provocative analogy, the magnitude of the following changes – the “economic plates” – cannot be ignored:

  • The conversion of the communist world to capitalism: With this one-third of humanity added to the capitalist world, major realignments are required.
  • The rise of man-made brainpower industries: New advances in technology allow industry to be located anywhere, shifting the emphasis away from physical capital.
  • Changing demographics: Social programs must adapt to the growing numbers of elderly people without income, and of others, young and old, migrating from poor to rich countries.
  • A truly global economy: Anything can be made anywhere, and sold anywhere else, which can put national governments at odds with global business.
  • Lack of a dominant political or military world leader: Now who will write the rules for the world’s trading system?

A new capitalism must emerge, one in which the ownership of skills (“man-made brainpower”) instead of physical capital is the key strategic asset. Economic success will depend on our willingness to make social investments in infrastructure, skills, education, and knowledge. Using specific examples from America, Japan, and Europe, The Future of Capitalism challenges and alters the way we view the economic backbone of today’s world, and examines how changes will affect the future.

Lester C. Thurow is a professor of economics and former dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Thurow is recognized throughout the world as a leading expert on economic issues. Since the publication of The Zero-Sum Society, he has been an important shaping voice in the creation of political platforms and national economic policy in the United States. He has been a contributing editor to Newsweek and a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.