The Work of Nations

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Midway through this provocative, controversial book, Robert Reich articulates his crucial theory that American labor is divided into three major subdivisions: symbolic analysts; routine producers; and those who serve others in person, individually. At the top of this hierarchy are those in the first category, those who work with words, data, and various visual symbols.

Among those in the highest order according to Reich’s configuration are lawyers, high-level corporate executives, engineers, top bankers and brokers, consultants, and highly regarded entertainers—including, presumably, athletes. It is people in the highest echelons of such enterprises who are most significantly rewarded within the current economic scheme. These people also tend to go where the money is, functioning in multinational situations to maximize their potential for power and economic gain.

Those at the top of the pyramid are not adversely affected by foreign competition because they are positioned to join the competition. On the other hand, those in the second and third groups, the routine producers and those who serve in one-on-one capacities, are significantly affected by such competition because they compete directly with people all over the world who provide the same services they do, in many cases for considerably less remuneration.

Because American industry is becoming increasingly international and multinational, government subsidies to it often do not benefit the United States. Despite the original intent of such aid, the end result often is that those benefitted most are in the Third World, where labor costs are lower than in the United States.

Here and elsewhere, Reich suggests, the rules of the game are changing. His wide-ranging book calls for leaders in business, industry, and government with a global vision equal to the challenges ahead.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. March 10, 1991, XIV, p. 3.

The Economist. CCCXVIII, March 23, 1991, p. 95.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 21, 1991, p. 2.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVI, March 10, 1991, p. 3.

The New Yorker. LXVII, April 15, 1991, p. 104.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXVIII, January 18, 1991, p. 48.

Time. CXXXVII, March 4, 1991, p. 78.

The Times Literary Supplement. May 31, 1991, p. 10.

The Wall Street Journal. March 20, 1991, p. A20.

The Washington Post Book World. XXI, March 3, 1991, p. 1.