A clue to the dichotomy at the heart of this accessible history of American capitalism is buried deep within it. In describing the growth of the footwear company Nike in the 1970s and 1980s, Bhu Srinivasan writes that ‘Nike, as a new symbol of Americana, was a potent mix of high-margin, high-value American intellectual property and low-margin, low-value foreign labor.’ The revolution exemplified by Nike’s growth has only accelerated since. In his concluding chapter, Srinivasan classifies Apple founder Steve Jobs, ‘a man who had made it so that a customer in India could buy a product made in China, which never entered American airspace or physically touched an American hand’, as an equal to the industrial magnates of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Two opposing visions of American economic and political life have been brought into sharp relief by the Trump presidency. One is represented by Trump himself, who campaigned on a protectionist platform and in his first year proposed tariffs on steel imports and boasted of ‘persuading’ companies to keep