13 Great Books on the Post-industrial Society

industrial vs postindustrial

Since at least the 1950s, scholars have speculated about what the economy might look like when and if manufacturing came to play a smaller role in employment, output, and so forth. Though we often think of the early years after World War II as the heyday of a high-wage, unionized, mass-production economy, the most perceptive observers at the time noticed that manufacturing was already shrinking as a proportion of employment by the late 1950s; even if the absolute number of industrial jobs was holding steady at the time, employment was growing fastest in services such as retail, education, healthcare, and so forth. The young radicals of the New Left took note of these trends in their 1962 … [Read more...]

i Paid for Your iPhone: Mariana Mazzucato’s Spirited Defense of the Public Sector and Its Crucial Role in Innovation

mary tyler moore intro

The State makes things happen that otherwise would not have. - Mariana Mazzucato Thomas Piketty isn’t the only European economist making headlines lately—though his 700-page juggernaut has tended to dominate the discussion everywhere from the New York Times and Economist to Slate and The Nation, where Tim Shenk wrote an epic and slightly snotty piece putting the book in its place. As Piketty himself pointed out in the introduction to Capital in the Twenty-first Century, economics is truly the coin on the realm in the United States—the academic discipline that probably gets the most deference and respect in policymaking circles, as well as American media and popular culture more … [Read more...]

The Lego Movie and the Gospel of the Creative Class


Any parent who has ever stepped on one of the wonderful Danish bricks known as Legos might find their faith in karma reaffirmed by The Lego Movie. Indeed, a reasonable observer could not be blamed for doubting that a film adaptation of a toy could be hailed by critics as “the first fantastic movie of 2014,” or as “wickedly smart” with “a joyous wit.”  Yet this is what the Lego company—and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—have given us as payback for all those hurt feet: a fresh, dizzying, and audacious animated film about interlocking blocks and anonymous minifigurines. Of course, Michael Bay’s Transformers movies gave us plenty of reason to doubt the premise of toy-as-movie, … [Read more...]

Making Sense of North Carolina’s Political Mess

greetings from north carolina

As the late, great Larry Goodwyn might say, it all goes back to Populism.  The roots of today’s right-wing putsch in the Old North State, which has seen resurgent Republicans in the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion push an extreme agenda against the poor, minorities, education, the environment, voting rights and reproductive freedom, stretches back over a century, long before the rise of Barack Obama or the Tea Party. It has been hard for many observers to square the state’s recent sharp turn to the right with its reputation as among the most moderate and even progressive of Southern states.  The long, ugly career of Jesse Helms notwithstanding, North Carolina could boast of its … [Read more...]

When Genius Fractured

fail financial crisis

It is hard not to sympathize with Alex’s complaint about Age of Fracture: Rodgers’ implicit avoidance of the question of why. Age of Fracture is not the place to turn to if you are looking for an explanation of America’s twenty-first century malaise. Age of Fracture is a diagnosis, and a second-order one at that - an analysis of failed analyses, neither a prescription nor a cure. But for students wondering at the their elders’ impotence in the face of economic austerity, financial collapse, long-term unemployment, deindustrialization, mass surveillance, and so on, it is the unavoidable place to start. I read the book as a catalogue of elite failure. Each chapter is a series of logically … [Read more...]

Working Poor in the Creative Economy

money machine wind money grab

Donald Trump just unveiled an exciting new start-up—a crowdfunding website called “Fund Anything." You can find your own way to the site if you care about such things. The heightened profile of crowdfunding—Amanda Palmer, the Veronica Mars film, and even Iron Sky—probably motivated Trump to dip his toes into this new variant of capitalization.[1] If Trump has a talent, it seems to be sniffing out opportunities to exploit, and the shift to crowdfunding now seems like such an exploitable moment. Whatever draws the ever-listening media to listen to him bloviate, he'll embrace it—lest we forget his all-important announcement about the conditions of the President's birth. But the means by … [Read more...]

Activating Alternative Historical Narratives: The Black Arts Collective of Philadelphia Visits South El Monte

"Let It Sparkle"

SEMAP Interview from Henry Pacheco on Vimeo. For Activate Vacant, the South El Monte Arts Posse invited artists to transgress space by creating installations in abandoned, un-used, and, often, fenced of lots. Carribean Fragoza’s two word self-titled poem installation/billboard “ay corazon,” made entirely of white plastic grocery bags, interrupted the monotonous landscape and functioned as an emotional holograph for El Monte’s commuters. Christopher Anthony Velasco’s “Let It Sparkle,” invited bus riders and the SEMAP team to cover the adjacent abandoned car garage and parking lot with yarn. Lastly, Jennifer Renteria’s rendering “The Uncultivated Park,” allowed residents to contemplate … [Read more...]

The History Channel: Selling the Past in the Age of Reality TV

chumlee pawn stars

For a website dedicated to the concept of “historiography for the masses,” perhaps it was only a matter of time before the contemporary History Channel would be addressed. Once maligned for its excessive focus on World War II and military history, the History Channel of the past nonetheless remained fairly dedicated to its core concept. Historical documentaries, such as the Engineering an Empire series, The Crusades: Crescent and the Cross, The American Revolution, and Ancient Rome: Story of an Empire, tackled serious historical topics with sophistication and insight. However, following the tried and true model of channels like MTV and VH1, with their respective series the Jersey Shore and … [Read more...]

Steel Towns, Motor Cities, and Cuban Refugees: Part III of the 2012 UHA Conference


Welcome to the third installment of ToM's four part coverage of the 2012 UHAs.  You'll detect a clear bias in favor of aged/renewed rust belt cities with a flourish of transnationalism at the end via the Cuban Revolution and post WWII Miami.  If you missed Part I click here and for Part II here. Panel – Rust Belt Cosmopolitanism Joshua Akers – Settling the City: Urban Homesteading and the Construction of Markets in Detroit “It stands out on the highway like a creature from another time/ It inspires the babies’ questions for their mothers as they ride/ But no one stopped to think about the babies or how they would survive/ We almost lost Detroit, this time.” - Dale … [Read more...]

God Save the Village Green: Pastoralism in British Rock

Fatcat industrialists Olympics opening ceremony 2012

As the pageantry and spectacle (or tragedy and treacle, all depending) of the Olympic ceremonies recede from memory, Danny Boyle’s vision of the history of Great Britain echoes many common sentiments felt by the British.  The cultural history of the Isles illustrates an ambivalence concerning modernity and its relationship with a notion of an idyllic Eden lost to the so-called “satanic mills” of industrialization, manifest in the shift from the agrarian hills to the smokestacks of Boyle’s production.  Martin Weiner’s English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 succinctly outlines this ambivalence within British culture, particularly its appearance in literature and … [Read more...]


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