After the New Economy, Doug Henwood, The New Press, 2003, GBP £16.95
New Yorker Doug Henwood’s multimedia assault on American capitalism ranges from the Left Business Observer - a newsletter, website and discussion group - a weekly radio show on WBAI, the definitive expose of Wall Street (Verso, 1998), and now his new book After the New Economy.
Henwood’s high standing among radicals in America and beyond arises from his ability, not only to understand the wilder shores of high finance, but also to explain what is wrong there. Widening the focus to the economy as a whole, Henwood’s latest book is a rattling good read, as well as being a clear introduction to the complexities of economic statistics and the real world trends behind them.
Henwood makes short work of the shibboleths of the ‘New Economy’ trumpeted by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and many in the financial press. He also takes apart the ‘post-materialist’ fantasies of George Gilder and Business Week, showing that the ‘overthrow of matter’ was prematurely celebrated. He is particularly good at going for the jugular, exposing ramshackle exploitation behind the book-selling website Amazon’s glowing front page, and neatly exposing ‘all the substitutes for profits that became so fashionable in the later 1990s - “eyeballs”, “hits” and “pageviews”.’
Henwood takes some risks himself. As a critic of Wall Street, he is well placed to enlarge his audience among the ‘anti-capitalist’ movement of recent times. But rather than joining in with the Greek chorus of woe-sayers, bemoaning the end of the world, Henwood is resolutely optimistic about new technology. More than that, he shows where the critics are wrong, exposing the anti-human ideas of the deep ecology movement and their ambition to reduce the population. Drawing out the unlovely consequences of the arguments made by greens such as David Korten and Kirkpatrick Sale, Henwood concludes ‘this is snobbery, elitism and despair, masquerading as radical critique’ (168).