• Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

  • By: Anne Case, Angus Deaton
  • Narrated by: Kate Harper
  • Length: 11 hrs and 38 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (158 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller 

Wall Street Journal best seller 

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice 

Shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 

This audiobook narrated by Kate Harper reveals how the flaws in capitalism are fatal for America's working class and includes an introduction and preface read by the authors themselves - economist Anne Case and Nobel Prize winner Angus Deaton.

Life expectancy in the United States has recently fallen for three years in a row - a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year - and they're still rising. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, known for first sounding the alarm about deaths of despair, explain the overwhelming surge in these deaths and shed light on the social and economic forces that are making life harder for the working class. They demonstrate why, for those who used to prosper in America, capitalism is no longer delivering. 

Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism paints a troubling portrait of the American dream in decline. For the White working class, today's America has become a land of broken families and few prospects. As the college educated become healthier and wealthier, adults without a degree are literally dying from pain and despair. In this critically important book, Case and Deaton tie the crisis to the weakening position of labor, the growing power of corporations, and, above all, to a rapacious health-care sector that redistributes working-class wages into the pockets of the wealthy. Capitalism, which over two centuries lifted countless people out of poverty, is now destroying the lives of blue-collar America. 

This book charts a way forward, providing solutions that can rein in capitalism’s excesses and make it work for everyone. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2020 Anne Case and Angus Deaton (P)2020 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"An excellent book." (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times)

"This book explains so many of today's headlines with clear writing, sharp storytelling, and an almost symphonic use of research in economics, public health, and history. What it summons is a powerful analysis of who we are as Americans and what we have become as a country." (Sam Quinones, author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic)

"This book will be an instant classic, applying high quality social science to an urgent national matter of life and death. In exploring the recent epidemic of 'deaths of despair', the distinguished authors uncover an absorbing historical story that raises basic questions about the future of capitalism. It is hard to imagine a timelier - or in the end, more hopeful - book in this season of our national despair." (Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and Our Kids)

What listeners say about Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

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    2 out of 5 stars

So many words, so little insight

C&D spend an astounding & mind numbing amount of words & numbers to say so little that has not been well covered before. Even Deaton's previous work on the division of American society was clearer & more concise. Here, they had enough real data & ideas for a small pamphlet, but the dilution of the central ideas just makes this not worthy of the time it takes to listen.

10 people found this helpful

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An Interesting Book

A lot of research has gone into the deaths of despair and there is sound truth here about the health care industry, globalization and robotics, and corporate power as aided and abetted by the federal government. It’s a brilliant book and well worth your time. Be patient with the statistics; there are many in the beginning.

I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think the primary suggestion it makes is naive and puts the cart before the horse. Our health care system needs major reforms, but it’s naive to postulate that eliminating/reducing the amount of money that corporate spends on providing health insurance to its workers would result in more generous wages. Under the current system, they’d just pocket the profits.

We need to break the power of lobbies, enforce anti trust laws and basically just regulate regulate regulate how corporations can behave with regards to their workers and consumers. We can establish health care reforms after that. The priority here is asserting the rights of individual human beings— particularly workers and consumers — over the rights of the current generation of robber barons. Unless we do that we’re likely to enter into another feudal age. And no amount of health care reform — whether it stays in place or crumbles later— will be able to prevent the loss of our rights and lifestyles (material and social).

UBI — if it is ever needed in the future as a result limited jobs due to AI — should be provided by the corporations that profit from the replacement of workers. But first we need to check their power.

Yes, agree with everything they said about the health care system EXCEPT that it is the keystone. It is not. With major changes to how work is done looming on the horizon, the keystone is making the corporate power a force for the good of all instead of the rent-seeking scourge they are today.

Great narrator - very easy to listen to! I liked her slow deliberate pace. This book is so full of information that a slow pace was helpful. She was clearly engaged with material and her delivery was expressive.

5 people found this helpful

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A Genuine Research Accomplishment

I came across several reviews of this book earlier in 2020, and decided that I was better off listening to it than expect myself to sit still and read the entire thing. This book is interesting, well-written and refreshingly objective in it’s approach. Hard to believe it was written by two economists! In my experience, economists usually have an established worldview and argue an agenda toward championing preferred outcomes. Honestly, I thought the authors were sociologists. The important issues discussed were evaluated from multiple angles, with thoughtful pros and cons presented for each. Truly a worthwhile read.
Much more focused on the fundamental shortcomings of American capitalism than I expected. Frankly, the exhaustive discussion of moral toll was hard to listen to. So sad and so broad. The economic issues were more interesting to me, because they are perhaps able to be improved via policy change. Again, very much worth the listen!

2 people found this helpful

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amazing.

Brings to light so many issues that needed thorough explanation. Thanks very much for your efforts.

2 people found this helpful

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Not recommended

If you are a white male that has not graduated college, this book will try to convince you that you will probably die a terrible death by suicide, alcohol, or overdose. I can't tell you how many times they mention this specific demographic , easily 5 per page. The book is repetitive beyond belief and will infuriate you by making broad statements that sound more like opinions than research. I am not one to stop reading a book, but I can say that I was not able to get anything out of the first half that would convince me to finish it.

1 person found this helpful

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Good but disappointing

This book does many things well. it shines a light on the American opioid crisis, it describes the power and political dynamics which helped give rise to the crisis. The book fantastically explorers the overall cost of America's failed health care system for its citizens. and then it falls flat. it's as if they spent all of their time researching and understanding the problem but also no meaningful resolution.

I can only give this 60% of the stars because it feels like the book was only 60% written. This entire book is about how the excesses of capitalism have caused a state of unfairness and inequality in the American economy and led to tragedy all across the country. Despite this, the authors flatly refuse to engage in any problem solving which would look away from capitalism. From the beginning of the book. they assure us that capitalism is up to the challenge of solving this problem, but in the end when they actually make recommendations, they don't have any. All of their recommendations to solve the problems they describe throughout the book can be boiled down to "there should be more government regulation although not too much and we can't say how much is the right amount." The book consistently refers to socialist nations and their systems as being more ideal than the American one and yet completely rejects out of hand as" a socialist utopia" The idea of government paying for health care. Instead, they float half-assed ideas such as a voucher system and some other bizarre hybrids without going into any particular detail of policy because I don't think they are convinced that such systems would work. The authors did not do the hard work of delineating meaningful steps forward. indeed, the "what should we do about it?" part of the book strikes me as the least developed portion of the entire book.

Instead, they wrote a book which identifies many of the excesses of capitalism and both the human and policy pressures which cause those excesses and under which inequality and unfairness thrive, and fail to outline a method under the capitalist system wherein these things may be defeated. when I heard from the beginning of the authors were not going to consider any socialist solutions, I found myself particularly curious to see what they would change, but in the end I feel like that portion fell flat and was empty.

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Good diagnosis; waffly prescriptions

This book is spun out of the authors' famous article describing the upsurge of "Deaths of Despair" among white working class Americans. Unfortunately, it doesn't add much. The best parts of the book are the authors' description of those deeply alarming demographic trends, their account of the opioid crisis, and their indictment of the health care system. Their prescriptions fall short, however, failing to match the scope of the problems they document. As a reader, your better bet is to listen to Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman's description of the past history and current dysfunction of taxation in the United States in The Triumph of Inequality. They do a better job describing what worked at mid-century and recommending policy fixes that could update past (largely successful) prescriptions for current circumstances. The result is a book that describes a more plausible policy fix that would actually match the scale of the problem, i.e., taxing top incomes in a way that will make today's ubiquitous rent seeking less attractive to economic elites.

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Spectacular content, narrative tone too pretentious

The material is weighty yet so well laid out. The book offers great insight to the roots of Populism today. I did find the narrator’s haughty affect insufferable however.

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Gripping and insightful

This book was researched and written in 2019, yet the thesis laid out rings true in 2021. It strikes a fine balance between economic theory, real life examples, and an examination of possible solutions. Truly exceptional.

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Makes You Think

This book open my eyes to apart of the United States I have never known.

A data driven book examining how the current United States economic structure beats the poor white man, and the resulting effects their standard of living, psych, and formed habits forced upon through the economy.

Insightful book the present questions about United States economic structures with data trends, and the morality of allowing it to continue.

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  • Customer
  • 06-30-20

Authors exceed their field of knowledge

This book is excellent where the authors write in their fields of expertise. However, their account of pain medication includes serious mistakes, and is based purely on dubious journalistic sources (to their credit, the authors are open about this) The result is well below the standard expected of these brilliant writers.

For example, the authors repeatedly refer to oxycodone as "legalized heroin" claiming that oxycodone is 'legal' or 'legalized' whereas heroin is an illegal street drug.

Oxycodone is a Class 2 drug in the US, legally prescribed but not "legal" (Heroin is Class 1 in the US, so not prescribed at all without a special licence). In the UK both heroin (diamorphone) and oxycodone are in the exact same Class A legal category, that is, not legally available to the public but may be legally prescribed under specific circumstances. The authors knowledge of pain medication in general seems limited. For example they class acetaminophen (paracetamol) as an NSAID.

Deaton and Case suggest that chronic pain meds should be widely replaced with, literally, things like mindfulness, yoga and (I jest not) ACCUPUNCTURE. In an age where the wellness industry is overtaking medical science, perhaps these beliefs will be normal in 10 years. In my opinion, this is poor analysis.

7 people found this helpful

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  • TEnglish
  • 01-03-21

Essential reading/listening

This is an essential work for an understanding of the origins of despair amongst white males (without a degree) in American, as well as for an understanding of the means by which death may be the outcome of such despair. Vital.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-19-21

Must read

This book articulates a number if arguments I've been trying to get my head around for a number of years