Cognitive Capitalism: What Is It, If Anything?

For decades, scholars, activists and social critics have grappled with how to characterize the economic shift that has transformed the United States—and, indeed, the world—since the 1960s.  I have written elsewhere about the analytic challenge observers face in giving this change a name: postindustrial? Informational? Service? High-tech? Daniel Bell and Alain Touraine were among the first out of the gate, noting the decline of manufacturing as a relative proportion of employment and speaking of the “postindustrial society” in the early 1970s. (Bell had been using the term for a while, but his 1973 book helped put it on the map.)  The late futurist Alvin Toffler, in his breathless way, … [Read more...]

From South Gate to L.A. Live: Demographic Change, Homeowner Ethos and Redevelopment in Southeastern Los Angeles

When Becky Nicolaides chairs or comments on a panel, people show up. The author of the now seminal My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 always draws a crowd. As her book has assumed a sort of Crabgrass Nation status, the suburb at the heart of it, South Gate, has become an ur-text for Southeast Los Angeles more broadly. Nicolaides ended her study in 1965 but in her epilogue noted that twenty-first-century South Gate now served as a predominantly working-class Latino American suburb, representative of larger structural shifts in economics, demographics, and perhaps even immigration (though commentator Philip Ethington might differ on this … [Read more...]

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

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 Motor City at War: Mobilization, Wartime Housing, and Reshaping Metropolitan Detroit

“New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie,” commented former Punk rock queen Patti Smith in recent weeks. “New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city."  Today, Detroit usually receives attention for all the wrong reasons: industrial decline, corrupt mayoral administrations, and racial tension to name only a few issues assailing the city.  Add the seemingly ubiquitous spread of ruin porn – photography that tends to capture Detroit as if it were nothing but municipal ruin and squatters – and Detroit’s main attraction seems to be, at the moment, its desperation. Desperate New York of the … [Read more...]

Why Fracture? The Problem of Causation in Rodgers’s Book

I’ve written before at ToM about how Dan Rodgers's work influenced me as an undergrad at UNC-Charlotte.  In his 1987 book Contested Truths, the Princeton historian explored the ways that American thought about “the state,” “the people,” “liberty” and other fundamental political terms changed over time.  The book opened my eyes to the study of political culture, and the ways that language and rhetoric shape the implicit norms and values that inform all of our debates about public policy.  Like the work of linguist George Lakoff, it showed how we frame issues in ways that often matter much more than actual facts or figures. So where does that leave us with Age of Fracture, Rodgers’s epic … [Read more...]

Crime in the City and the Curious Case of Philadelphia: Part II of the 2012 UHA

"Is their such a thing as Philadelphia exceptionalism?" asked one observer at this year's UHA.  Undoubtedly, over the past two UHA's (2010, 2012), Philadelphia has enjoyed the attentions of more than a few historians. With this in mind, ToM correspondents provide a glimpse at some of the work being done on the City of Brotherly Love.  Crime and policing emerged as another area of increased interest at this year's conference.  San Francisco's Chinatown, New York's Washington Heights, and yes, West Philadelphia provide case studies focusing on crime's influence on political mobilization, urban renewal, race relations and community activism. For part I of ToM's 2012 UHA coverage click … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Lanny Budd, Upton Sinclair’s Ideal Idler

"It was profoundly true that movements of the spirit came first, and that events of history were consequences thereof." -Upton Sinclair, Wide is the Gate Several years ago I was directed toward Upton Sinclair’s socialist-minded quasi-spy novels about a young man named Lanning Prescott Budd. The 11 books span the breadth of time from the onset of The Great War to the rise of the Cold War, but as I have been able to acquire only the first half of the series, my investigation has followed Lanny only so far as the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. A New York Times reflection on the books gives a decent introduction to the protagonist: Born in 1900, he was the illegitimate child of an … [Read more...]

The Food Truck Conundrum: Urban Politics and Mobile Eats

When local DC cultural website DCist tweeted a celebratory announcement of the arrival of Chic-fil-A’s new roaming food truck in the nation’s capital, one might have thought the tweet rather ho-hum. At most, cries of corporate infringement on a burgeoning subculture might have been expected to ring out. However, within minutes several prominent DC restaurant proprietors responded with harsh admonishments, but not about aesthetics or subcultures. Perhaps most notably, Dean Gold owner of Cleveland Park’s popular Dino restaurant, rebuked DCist for publicizing the food truck of a company known to support anti-gay causes and legislation tweeting: ChickFilA_Fuckers hate gays and we need to care? … [Read more...]

Is the Beltline Bad for Atlanta?

Note: An expanded and updated version of this piece will be published as part of n+1's City by City anthology in 2015. Class has always been the shadow cast by New Urbanism.  The idea of curbing sprawl and promoting greater urban density runs up against material realities time and time again.  Consider Oregon’s much-lauded urban growth boundary system, which set a limit for growth around the state’s cities beginning in the 1970s.  The policy was put in place by a liberal Republican governor, Tom McCall, who hoped to prevent “grasping wastrels” from gobbling up Oregon’s farms and scenic countryside.  It has since promoted infill – intensive reuse of existing urban space, in lieu of … [Read more...]

L.A. Confidential: California History and the 2012 Whitsett Seminar

If you've ever been to Los Angeles, you know beneath the sprawl lay one of the nation's most fascinating cities.  From Echo Park to Boyle Heights to Silver Lake to Malibu, Los Angeles collects vistas, peoples, highways, and film noir like few others. Beyond LA, California provides scholars with ample subjects from which to explore history both locally and nationally.  The network of public universities in Los Angeles and the state's other cities only furthers this process. The annual Whitsett Grad Student Seminar enables future academics to present their California research to professors and  graduate students working in similar fields. Cal State Northridge's Whitsett Professor of California … [Read more...]