Back to Full Employment

From Boston Review Books

Back to Full Employment

By Robert Pollin

Why we should put full employment back on the national agenda and how we can summon the political will to achieve it.





Why we should put full employment back on the national agenda and how we can summon the political will to achieve it.

Full employment used to be an explicit goal of economic policy in most of the industrialized world. Some countries even achieved it. In Back to Full Employment, economist Robert Pollin argues that the United States—today faced with its highest level of unemployment since the Great Depression—should put full employment back on the agenda.

There are good reasons to seek full employment, Pollin writes. Full employment will help individuals, families, and the economy as a whole, while promoting equality and social stability. Equally important, creating a full-employment economy can be joined effectively with two other fundamental policy aims: ending our dependence on fossil fuels and creating an economy powered by clean energy.

Explaining views on full employment in macroeconomic theory from Marx to Keynes to Friedman, Pollin argues that the policy was abandoned in the United States in the 1970s for the wrong reasons, and he shows how it can be achieved today despite the serious challenges of inflation and globalization.

Pollin believes the biggest obstacle to creating a full-employment economy is politics. Putting an end to the prevailing neoliberal opposition to full employment will require nothing less than an epoch-defining reallocation of political power away from the interests of big business and Wall Street and toward the middle class, working people, and the poor, while mounting a strong defense of the environment. In the end, achieving full employment will be a matter of political will: Can the United States make having a decent job a fundamental right?


$18.00 T ISBN: 9780262017572 208 pp. | 4.5 in x 7 in


  • …Pollin covers the history, economics, and politics of the issue, and proposes an entirely persuasive program for getting there.

    Robert Kuttner

    The American Prospect

  • Back to Full Employment offers some much-needed clarity as we head into the election season.

    Anis Shivani

    Huffington Post


  • In this powerful and persuasive work, Robert Pollin shows why full employment should be both a progressive priority and a national one. I honestly wish I could make every last lawmaker in Washington read this book.

    Chris Hayes

    Host of Up with Chris Hayes, MSNBC

  • Casting aside the assumptions of the failed neo-liberal model, Robert Pollin explains the centrality of full employment to a decent society and provides nothing short of a blueprint to achieve it. Pollin lights the way forward with a roadmap for a sustainable economy for generations to come and poses the burning question, 'If not now, when?' Intelligent, inspirational, and—a rarity among economic writings—accessible for all those seeking passage out of the 'austerity trap' delusion.

    Rose Ann DeMoro

    Executive Director, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee

  • Recovering a low unemployment rate after the financial crisis is essential; keeping it low in the long run is crucial for the economy. Robert Pollin's book gives the background you need to understand the problems, and outlines the policies needed to achieve these goals. Essential reading for everyone pursuing an egalitarian, democratic economic system.

    Lance Taylor

    Arnhold Professor, Department of Economics, New School for Social Research