Hoffman and Silicon Valley’s antidote to the Jensen formula was a network-based society “with fewer conventional jobs, less economic security, less privacy and faster change, has quickly lost its broad appeal,” Lemann writes. “The social and economic benefits of the new system belong mostly to the companies themselves and not to the users of their products.”

Lemann proposes an alternative to systems that have failed to provide a stable American dream: a return to pluralism, which encourages the power of interest groups.

“It distributes, rather than concentrates, economic and political power. It honors a process in which nobody, good or bad, ever gains control. It envisions a messy, contentious system that can’t be subordinated to one conception of the common good,’’ he says.

Pluralistic interest groups got slavery abolished, got women the vote, won better conditions for workers, took down the racist Jim Crow system and engendered anti-pollution policies, Lemann says.

“Pluralism requires institutions that will enact and maintain democratic ideals.’’

Its practitioners include the “residents of the economically devastated neighborhood of Chicago Lawn and the auto dealers who were terminated during the bankruptcy of General Motors. They turned themselves into interest groups and got a measure of redress from government. On the other hand, none of the three major thinkers in this book was a pluralist,’’ according to Lemann.

“Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream’’ by Nicholas Lemann. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 306 pages. $28.

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