Head to Head

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In HEAD TO HEAD Thurow positions the United States in competition with Japan and the European Community. This competition not only involves nations but two distinct forms of capitalism as well. The communitarian form of capitalism as practiced by the Germans and the Japanese emphasizes business groups, social responsibility for skills, teamwork, and a focus on market share rather than profit. It also assumes an active role for government in forming business strategies and promoting industrial policies. In contrast, the United States practices an individualist form of capitalism which emphasizes individual strategies, individual responsibility for skill development, and a focus on profit maximization. Government is tolerated in this form of capitalism, but the alliance between government and business is uneasy.

In order for the United States to remain competitive in this “coming economic battle,” Thurow contends, it will have to make old systems more efficient, and construct new systems in savings and investment, education, business groups, and national strategy. The government would play a leading role in the creation and sustainability of these new systems. Despite his use of military rhetoric and emphasis on competition, Thurow also stresses the importance of cooperation in trade, exchange rates, and technology among the three economic superpowers.

In the conclusion of HEAD TO HEAD, Thurow seems to argue for a U.S. industrial policy that embraces the communitarian form of capitalism. He calls on Americans to rediscover the advantages of teamwork as they fashion a new framework within which to structure an economic response to the changing economic and political milieu of the twenty-first century.