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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 30, 1993|ALEX RAKSIN

THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny by Andrew Bard Schmookler (State University of New York: $24.50; 335 pp.). Like Jane Jacobs, Andrew Schmookler is a headstrong scholar attracted to the grandest of social questions. "How are we to create a more humane and viable civilization?" he asks in his very first sentence. But while Jacobs would answer, "By leaving everyone free to follow their bliss," Schmookler sees America's hyper-individualism as precisely our problem. By persuading us to relinquish important "noncontractual bonds" like family and community, he argues, the free market isolates us as "social atoms" and discourages us from acting collectively when it is in our best interest to do so. Schmookler successfully shows how the market fosters merely the illusion of choice. Still, one can't help seeing him as the dog that barks at a passing train. For when that train is capitalism, history shows us that only the bulkiest, most intricately researched study will be weighty enough to alter its course.

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