Catalogue


Capitalism, democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery [electronic resource] /
John Mueller.
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1999.
description
xi, 335 p.
ISBN
0691001146 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
added author
imprint
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1999.
isbn
0691001146 (cloth : alk. paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
catalogue key
11349443
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 289-315) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"John Mueller deftly paces us through the practical realities of democratic development, rescuing the very idea of democracy from the idea mongers who have oversold the links between democracy and prosperity and between democracy and virtue. Stepping nimbly through the historic and contemporary links among democracy, capitalism, and virtue, he makes an important contribution to a practical theory of democracy."-- Sam Popkin, University of California, San-Diego "John Mueller has written an outstanding book about capitalism and democracy. He argues that each system has existed without the other, but that both are improved when they occur in tandem. Capitalism and democracy differ in cultural repute. Capitalism has a bad press even though as a result of competition, it tends to treat the customer well. Capitalist leaders are not 'robber barons,' but nice guys who finish first. Democracy, on the other hand, is perhaps over-praised: it embodies the play of special interests and while conceding political rights, only benefits the people as a whole when it is tied to a capitalist growth strategy. Fortunately, economists are now able to provide that strategy so that by following their advice, societies can progress. Neither democracy nor capitalism, however, satisfies all human or psychic wants. They are at best a reflection of Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery (where you can get everything you really need) rather than Alice's Restaurant (where you can get anything you want). Mueller has contributed a new and provocative interpretation that will resonate for years to come."-- Richard Rosecrance, University of California, Los Angeles "This is a lively, smart, well-written, and often compelling book. The frequent and pointed comments that visions of perfect democracy and markets miss the point of how a society can work are well made."-- Russell Hardin, New York University "We have here a seasoned political scientist and thinker with total control over his material. The result is an extremely engaging text, one that will be read for its excitement in the best graduate seminars and the best political science programs in the country. I have little doubt that, even in this heavily researched area of economics and democracy, his book will make a big splash, comparable to Ingleharts Culture Shift or Putnams Making Democracy Work ."-- Michael Lewis-Beck, University of Iowa
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1999-09-13:
"If you can't get it at Ralph's, you can probably get along without it" is the motto of the mom-and-pop retailer in Garrison Keillor's fictional town of Lake Wobegon, Minn. It's a slogan that serves Mueller, a University of Rochester political science professor, as an adroit summation of both capitalism and democracy. Both are imperfect systems, according to Mueller. Capitalism is driven by selfish acquisitiveness and provides no guarantees of economic security; democracy is preferable to other forms of government but is dominated by special interests and, as a result, is "unlikely ever to achieve orderly deliberation, political equality, or wide and enlightened participation by the mass of the public." Both concepts suffer from serious image problems, according to Mueller. Capitalism gets a bad rap from Hollywood, the church and intellectuals who decry the rapaciousness of the business world; in fact, capitalism actually rewards such virtues as honesty, fairness and civility, he writes. Democracy, on the other hand, is idealized and can never foster the orderly, fair society to which its advocates aspire. Mueller is an entertaining guide through economic and political history, using references to Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Hume, Mencken and many more writers to produce deft explanations of complex ideas. One may question the wisdom of his faith in the free market, or in the fairness and civility of big corporations that, these days, are gradually devouring the Ralph's Groceries of the world. But it's hard not to find much to like in a brash manifesto that proudly extols the virtues, as Mueller puts it, of "the pretty good over the ideal." (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1999-09-01:
The thesis behind Mueller's cleverly worded title is that capitalism gets terrible press (for promoting greed and deceit) while democracy's is na‹vely positive and uncritical (it can never be as egalitarian and participatory as it claims). Mueller (political science, Univ. of Rochester) feels that Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, from Garrison Keillor's mythical Lake WobegonÄthe motto is, "If you can't get it at Ralph's, you can probably get along without it"Äis a more realistic model for approaching the two entities. Mueller argues that our unrealistic images of capitalism and democracy prevent us from claiming the full benefit of each. Throughout, he is careful to qualify rather than make bold declarative statements that would be damned by exceptions. Many thought-provoking ideas are packed into this nuanced work, and Mueller's case is strong and well documented. The sophisticated argument, however, will limit its value to academic collections or public libraries where there is an active interest in political science.ÄPatrick J. Brunet, Western Wisconsin Technical Coll. Lib., La Crosse (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2000-03:
Mueller (political science, Univ. of Rochester) argues that capitalism and democracy are "pretty good" and that we ought to be happier with this fact than we are. The problem lies less in the actual performance of capitalism and democracy than with the images and expectations that citizens have created for them. Democracy's public image is unrealistically good, so we are constantly finding fault with its performance in practice. Capitalism's image is perhaps unrealistically bad--it is nowhere near so evil in practice as its image might suggest. In practice, Mueller argues, capitalism and democracy are neither perfectly good nor hopelessly bad, they are merely "pretty good" and should be accepted on those terms as fairly effective social institutions. Judged by these same standards, this is a "pretty good" book--the thesis is interesting but not stunningly original. The book is written pretty well. The evidence and examples given are not bad either. The appendix, titled "An Inventory of Propositions," derived from the author's analysis, is actually very good and worth the consideration of anyone interested in these issues. Complete and useful bibliography. Upper-division undergraduate and above. M. Veseth; University of Puget Sound
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Mueller's provocative book deserves a wide audience. . . . Mueller writes sharp, brisk, and witty prose that is unfailingly lucid."-- Daniel J. Silver, The Weekly Standard
"Many thought-provoking ideas are packed into this nuanced work, and Mueller's case is strong and well-documented."-- Library Journal
"Mueller is an entertaining guide through economic and political history, using references to Shakespeare, Adam Smith, Hume, Mencken and many more writers to produce deft explanations of complex ideas."-- Publisher's Weekly
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, September 1999
Library Journal, September 1999
Publishers Weekly, September 1999
Choice, March 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative & engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image & reality create significant political & economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, & widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous & accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy & capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it." Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed & to require discourtesy, deceit, & callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships & corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, & compassionate. He argues that this gap between image & reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, & discourteously to try to get ahead & to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency & gain. The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, & romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism & avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, & marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom & security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism & can hamper democracy's growth & development. Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, & erudition. He combines mastery of current political & economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope & rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, & anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy & capitalism.
Unpaid Annotation
Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it."Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and re
Publisher Fact Sheet
This book uses Garrison Keillor's fictional store to explain views of democracy & capitalism.
Main Description
Democracy is overrated. Capitalism, on the other hand, doesn't get enough credit. In this provocative and engaging book, John Mueller argues that these mismatches between image and reality create significant political and economic problems--inspiring instability, inefficiency, and widespread cynicism. We would be far better off, he writes, if we recognized that neither system is ideal or disastrous and accepted instead the humdrum truth that both are "pretty good." And, to Mueller, that means good enough. He declares that what is true of Garrison Keillor's fictional store "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery" is also true of democracy and capitalism: if you can't get what you want there, "you can probably get along without it." Mueller begins by noting that capitalism is commonly thought to celebrate greed and to require discourtesy, deceit, and callousness. However, with examples that range from car dealerships and corporate boardrooms to the shop of an eighteenth-century silk merchant, Mueller shows that capitalism in fact tends to reward behavior that is honest, fair, civil, and compassionate. He argues that this gap between image and reality hampers economic development by encouraging people to behave dishonestly, unfairly, and discourteously to try to get ahead and to neglect the virtuous behavior that is an important source of efficiency and gain. The problem with democracy's image, by contrast, is that our expectations are too high. We are too often led by theorists, reformers, and romantics to believe that democracy should consist of egalitarianism and avid civic participation. In fact, democracy will always be chaotic, unequal, and marked by apathy. It offers reasonable freedom and security, but not political paradise. To idealize democracy, Mueller writes, is to undermine it, since the inevitable contrast with reality creates public cynicism and can hamper democracy's growth and development. Mueller presents these arguments with sophistication, wit, and erudition. He combines mastery of current political and economic literature with references to figures ranging from Plato to P. T. Barnum, from Immanuel Kant to Ronald Reagan, from Shakespeare to Frank Capra. Broad in scope and rich in detail, the book will provoke debate among economists, political scientists, and anyone interested in the problems (or non-problems) of modern democracy and capitalism.
Bowker Data Service Summary
This text argues that democracy is overrated, and that capitalism doesn't get enough credit. It claims that neither system is disastrous or perfect, and that people should accept the humdrum truth that both are pretty good.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Capitalism and Democracy: Images and Image Mismatchesp. 5
Capitalism
Capitalism's Imagep. 21
Sources of Capitalism's Negative Imagep. 57
The Consequences of Capitalism's Image for Economic Developmentp. 72
Development, Happiness, and the Rise of the Politically Incorrect One-Handed Economistp. 99
Democracy
Images and Definitionsp. 137
Consequences of the Democratic Imagep. 164
The Rise of Democracyp. 192
Conclusion
Democracy and Capitalism: Connections and Disconnectionsp. 231
App: An Inventory of Propositionsp. 243
Notesp. 255
Referencesp. 289
Indexp. 317
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem