For this assignment, you will read, summarise and analyse material in one chapter from Robert Reich’s book, Supercapitalism. The aims of the assignment are:
to give you a deeper understanding of Reich’s argument; and
to develop your ability to read, understand and analyse books on political issues.
Choose one of the following chapters from Reich
Chapter 4, ‘Democracy overwhelmed’, pp. 131–167
1. Outline the structure and content of the chapter (200–400 words)
Each of Reich’s chapters is broken up into sections.
Tell us what Reich is doing in each section.
Put all this into a table like the example below.
Do this as briefly as possible.
Authors do different things in different parts of a chapter. Have a look at the advice we give in the Academic Skills chapter, Analysing political writing.
Example: Outline of the first part of Reich, chapter 1
Introduction, pp. 15-16 Reich summarises chapter’s argument.
Section 1, pp. 16-21 Mainly background; Reich describes the development of gigantic businesses in the US, from late 19th century to 1920s.
Section 2, pp. 21-27 Reich argues that large scale capitalism produced poverty, and great power for business. The political response to this was regulation in the public interest.
Section 3, pp. 27-31 Reich argues that the post-war system of mass production needed stability, planning and predictable prices. It could get this because most of industry was dominated by a few large firms (oligopoly).
2. Outline the argument of the chapter (50–120 words)
Every chapter in Reich is trying to convince us of something central. It’s making an argument and it’s giving us reasons for it. We want to be able to unpack all this. So your task in this section is to:
First, outline the overall argument made by the chapter, in no more than 20 words.
Then outline between four and eight reasons that Reich gives for his overall proposition.
Express these as briefly as possible, in dot points of less than 20 words each.
Each dot point should contain just one reason.
You do not need to provide references.
For advice on how to do this, see our Academic Skills chapter on Identifying and outlining arguments.
To understand what we mean by Arguments, reasons and propositions, read the Academic Skills chapter, Propositions, reasons and arguments.
3. Summarise some of Reich’s main concrete evidence for his reasons (350–600 words)
Some of Reich’s reasoning is “factual”; some of his reasons are general statements (propositions). Some of those general statements are backed by concrete evidence.
For this part of the assignment, we want you to:
Take either two or three of the reasons (propositions) from the previous task; these need to be general statements, not factual material.
Summarise as much of the concrete evidence that Reich gives for them as you can within the word limit.
Write your summary in your own words; you should not copy Reich’s words, and you shouldn’t quote from Reich.
Reference all the evidence you summarise with proper in-text references, and a proper citation of Reich’s book at the end of your assignment.
NOTE: We are not asking you to find evidence from any other source; just summarise the main concrete evidence in Reich’s own chapter.
What do we mean by concrete evidence?
Much of Reich’s text consists of reasons for his opinions; and many of these reasons are general statements.
The second paragraph begins: ‘Americans were becoming more equal, economically.’ That is a general statement about America, what we call a proposition or ‘claim’. It is not evidence.
The paragraph then continues: ‘In 1928, the highest-paid 1 percent of earners had taken home 19 percent of total personal income, before taxes. By 1950, their share had plummeted to 7 percent.’
That is concrete evidence. It is factual material, given in support of a proposition, and Reich provides a reference (#36) to show where he got the figures.
4. Reflection: How did the chapter intersect with your life? (100–250 words)
Your task here is to describe any connections between the chapter and you, as a person — your life, your community, your interests and/or your opinions. This could include:
How the chapter reflected your own experience, or that of your friends or family.
How the chapter connected with something you’re interested in.
How the chapter impacted on you emotionally.
How the chapter reflects something about the country you live in.
How the chapter challenged one of your opinions, or made you think differently about something.
You don’t have to do all of these; they’re just a guide. We want to know how the chapter connected with your life.
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