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Spring 2022

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New in Dissent Magazine
Family Capitalism and the Small Business Insurrection

In a recent article for the January issue of Dissent Magazine, Zone author Melinda Cooper writes about capitalism in its changing forms and the insurrection of the small business. Click here to learn more about her book Family Values:Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservativism . Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below:

“At this point we need to ask whether the growing militancy of the Republican right can be adequately explained by the triumph of small over big business, as Tea Partiers and Trump himself would have us believe. Even the most sophisticated commentators have taken the Tea Party at its word on this matter. But as Trump’s example reminds us, what is at stake here is less an alliance of the small against the big than it is an insurrection of one form of capitalism against another: the private, unincorporated, and family-based versus the corporate, publicly traded, and shareholder-owned. If most family enterprise was confined to the small business sector in the 1980s—when public corporations accounted for the bulk of big business—this shorthand does not apply today, as more large companies go private and dynastic wealth surges to the forefront of the American economy. The historian Steve Fraser has noted that the ‘resurgence of what might be called dynastic or family capitalism, as opposed to the more impersonal managerial capitalism many of us grew up with, is changing the nation’s political chemistry.’ The family-based capitalism that stormed the White House along with Trump stretches from the smallest of family businesses to the most rambling of dynasties, and crucially depends on the alliance between the two. Without its network of subcontracted family businesses, the dynastic enterprise would collapse as a political and economic force. Meanwhile the many small business owners that gravitate toward Trump are convinced that their own fortunes rise and fall along with his.”