This is a book about the American Dream: how to understand this central principle of American public philosophy, the ways in which it is threatened by a number of winner-take-all economic trends, and how to make it a reality for workers and their families in the 21st century. Integrating political philosophy and the history of political thought with recent work in economics, political science, and sociology, this book calls for renewed political and policy commitment to “just work.”
Such a commitment is essential to combat the negative moral externalities of an economy where the fruits of growth are increasingly claimed by a relatively small portion of the population: slower growth, rising inequality, declining absolute mobility, dying communities, the erosion of social solidarity, lack of faith in political leaders and institutions, exploding debt, ethnic and nationalist backlash, widespread hopelessness, and the rapid rise in what economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case call deaths of despair.
Covid-19 threatens to pour gasoline on these winner-take-all fires, further concentrating economic and political power in the hands of those best suited to withstand (and even profit from) the pandemic-driven economic crisis. In this book, the author provides a model for understanding the American Dream and making it a reality in a post-Covid-19 economy.
A tour de force, this book is essential reading for scholars and researchers of political philosophy, political economy, political theory, and economics, as well as for the layperson trying to make sense of the post-pandemic world.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The American Worker in (and) Crisis 1. A Tale of Two Societies 2. American Public Philosophy of Markets 3. The American Dream Revisited 4. Martin Luther King’s Dream Revisited 5. Justice, Gender, and the Working Family 6. Abdicating the Throne: The Political Economy of Justice 7. The Philosophy, Politics, and Economics of Just Work
Joshua Preiss is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“Preiss argues convincingly for putting the principle of “just work” at the forefront of our policy debates. The increasing disconnect between America’s public narrative about the kind of society we are – our guiding moral and political philosophy – and the winner-take-all reality, he shows, makes this an urgent priority. This is an excellent book that weaves philosophy, economics, and politics together masterfully.” — Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; Author of The Globalization Paradox; Economics Rules; and Straight Talk on Trade
“The American Dream of broad-based prosperity is undercut by a winner takes all (WTA) economy where rent replaces reward and concentration trumps opportunity. Joshua Preiss shows us how focusing on access to the game is insufficient when the rewards for playing it are so skewed. Instead, we must focus on making work ‘just’ - which means being brave enough to tackle the causes of structural inequality and making the work of many pay enough to sustain a middle-class life in a WTA world.” — Mark Blyth, The William R. Rhodes ’57 Professor of International Economics, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University; Author of Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea and (with Eric Lonergan) Angrynomics
“For those of you hungering to break free of the narrow disciplinary debates over the past and future of American inequality, this book fits the bill like no other. It mixes essential ingredients from philosophy, economics, politics, history, and sociology, and it seamlessly weaves together an analysis of multiple dimensions of inequality. The book is clear and accessible, and, most importantly, offers an innovative, and, in my view, accurate and insightful understanding of how we arrived at this unfortunate juncture in history, and how, realistically, to escape it.” — Leslie McCall, Presidential Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Associate Director of Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality, CUNY Graduate Center; Author of The Undeserving Rich; Inequality, Opportunity, and Risk; and Inequality: Gender, Class, and Race in the New Economy
“This book presents a clear vision of what it takes to revive the American Dream in times of a pandemic, highlighting the fissures that tear at the social fabric today. Preiss’s insightful analysis shows why regular and dedicated work no longer guarantee access to a decent life, and lays out a path for reform. Just Work for All is not a utopia, but offers a feasible alternative given real people’s convictions and motivations. A necessary and important read not only in the American context, but for any advocate of social justice today.” — Peter Dietsch, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Université de Montréal; Author of Catching Capital
“This book offers a deeply thoughtful analysis of one of the most significant societal challenges of the 21st century -- how to lean against the forces of the winner-takes-all economy and ensure that our gains in prosperity are shared more widely across society. Josh Preiss offers specific and actionable proposals to create a more just, equal, and inclusive post-Covid world.” — Anton Korinek, Associate Professor, Department of Economics and Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
“An exemplary public philosopher, Joshua Preiss dares to imagine a more just future amidst pandemic and economic collapse. At the core of his vision is just work centered on human dignity and responsibility. Fluently combining careful normative theory, economic history, the latest political philosophy, the history of ideas, and civic religion, he shows that an economy that delivers just work and a humane society is within reach. This is an invitation to renew the American Dream.”— Eric Schliesser, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam; Author of Adam Smith: Systematic Philosopher and Public Thinker
“In times of the Covid pandemic, this book, which puts the question about work center stage, couldn’t be timelier.” — Lisa Herzog, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy and Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, University of Groningen; Author of Inventing the Market and Reclaiming the System