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Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything Paperback – May 31, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Red Clover (May 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0986853801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0986853807
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[Michaels] writes in clear, energetic prose that's thoughtful, engaging and unforced. She defines and analyzes without judgment or insistence...a breath of fresh air..." - NPR Ohio

"...a singularly brilliant and accessible analysis of some of the fundamental assumptions and driving principles of our time." - Comment Magazine

"I found myself reading non-stop, underlining like astute explanation about what I've been feeling recently, something I couldn't put my finger on..." - NPR Ohio

"If you just read one book this year, read this one." - BuriedInPrint blog

"5 stars: The cause and effect of our world is more surprising than you'd think. With intriguing notions about the driving ideas of stories in every shape of our life, "Monoculture" is an incredibly fascinating way about how the mind works and today's consumer culture." - Midwest Book Review

"A smart and realistic guide to first recognizing the monoculture and the challenges of transcending its limitations." - BrainPickings

"A thin, enrapturing gem. It's accessible, sensible--exactly the sort of book that should have (and still could + should!) take off and create a tiny little dent in books." - Kenyon Review

...a single lucid narrative that's bound to first make you somewhat uncomfortable and insecure, then give you the kind of pause from which you can step back and move forward with more autonomy, authenticity and mindfulness than ever. - BrainPickings

From the Back Cover

As human beings, we've always told stories: stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we're going. Now imagine that one of those stories is taking over the others, narrowing our diversity and creating a monoculture. Because of the rise of the economic story, six areas of your world - your work, your relationships with others and the environment, your community, your physical and spiritual health, your education, and your creativity - are changing, or have already changed, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And because how you think shapes how you act, the monoculture isn't just changing your mind - it's changing your life.

More About the Author

Winner of the 2011 George Orwell Award for outstanding contributions to the critical analysis of public discourse. One of The Atlantic's Top 11 psychology books of 2011. In Monoculture, FS Michaels draws on extensive research and makes surprising connections among disciplines to take a big-picture look at how one story is changing everything. Her research and writing have been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Killam Trusts, and regional and municipal arts councils. Michaels has an MBA, and lives and writes in British Columbia.

Customer Reviews

I found the book very approachable, well-written, and accessible.
Overall, I think Monoculture does a tremendous job of taking some wide-ranging and complex ideas and distilling them in a way that gets to their essence.
R. S.
Other times, they cite seemingly concrete sources, but Michaels fails to provide compelling evidence within her own text to grab the reader's attention.
Gregory A. Baldwin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By 88ways on June 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
In "Monoculture," FS Michaels methodically lays out how our societal worldview has been slowly overtaken by a single story - the story of economics. From education and the arts to how we eat, think, and play, Michaels asserts that we have been steeped in a single point of view where value is reduced to what can be sold and worth is determined by financial expediency. Michael's writing is clear and sharp as she brings the impact of this pervasive global philosophy down to the personal level, showing how it affects our lives in the everyday.

Michaels spent years researching this book and it shows. This book is packed full of observations and opinions from a wide range of economists, artists, philosophers and scholars, and Michaels introduces each new section of the book with a concise historical context outlining how things once were, how they developed, and how we arrived where we are. Michaels presents a clear argument without resorting to soapboxing, emotional appeals, or badgering. There is no guilt trip here, just a careful deconstruction of philosophical assumptions that too often go unquestioned. And while it is intellectually satisfying, "Monoculture" is no overbearing academic tome. Michaels' writing is engaging and accessible for readers with a wide range of ability and interest. This is not a pounded pulpit, but a door opening into a discussion that we as a society badly need to have.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Buddha Baby on August 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is one of my personal favorites of the books I have read in the last few years, for several reasons. First of all, it is one of those books that helps you to step back and take a good look at your own beliefs and narratives about how the world works and why, jolting you out of your usual thinking and presenting another perspective. Some of these ideas hit home - ideas I was vaguely aware of but unable to articulate, while others are totally new.
The author posits that the market economy is what basically drives every area of our lives. Of course this makes sense; if we can't put food on the table, we won't be around to consider anything else - that is about survival so easily becomes our main narrative. However, this narrative has gone way beyond survival and need into our crazy consumer driven lives. The breadth of this book is another reason for the five stars - the author addresses how this narrative effects most areas of our lives including the music we listen to, the art we come to value, obviously the clothes we wear, our medical care, our religion, our relationships with family members and friends, etc. - much more! I think many of us are aware of these things without realizing the extent to which we have lost choice in many of these areas. For example, it is common knowledge what has happened to the music industry with monopolies such as Sony determining what we listen to, as well as other media corporations determining which version of the news we are offered. I have always found it interesting to watch religions shape themselves in such a way as to receive government aid through non-profit status also. These things and many more are addressed in this book.
Another reason for the five stars: yes there are ideas for solutions presented.
Read more ›
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stijn Debrouwere on February 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I feel like I'm the exact target audience for this sort of essay. I'm liberal, I'm scared of the extent to which economic considerations have come to dominate our thoughts and I'm sad that the world isn't different than it is. But the entire book turns out to be a non sequitur: "gee, this economic story, isn't it awful?" repeated all throughout the book based on examples that aren't really very convincing.

Yes, non-profits shouldn't try to be like for-profits, but is efficiency such a bad thing when you're trying to help people?

Too many people have come to see education as purely an economic investment that'll pay off through future earnings, but equally as many people make frivolous study choices without thinking about what it costs society to let them spend all that time in college.

Societies never flourish when entrepreneurs and artists are constant slaves to the market, if they need to ask "Will this sell?" of anything they do. But remove that constraint and they and up losing a very valuable yardstick, something to keep them focused and on track.

What I expected was a book that was a little bit more Tocquevillian in trying to figure out exactly where the economic story breaks down, and where it actually works really well. I appreciate that Michaels, to some extent, just wants to show us a different way of thinking about things, to show us that there *are* different ways of thinking about things, and then leaves it up to us to actually decide on the mix of ideas we think is right. But if you already have that wider picture and were hoping that this book would give you some answers as to when those different ways of thinking actually make sense and should receive more attention... this essay doesn't have much meat to it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. S. on September 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
It's not often that a book about big ideas so rapidly changes my understanding of the world, but Monoculture maps a general dis-ease I've had for a long time about all sorts of different things (but couldn't quite articulate). Now I can't NOT think about my life from the lens of the economic story. It becomes self-evident.

Monoculture does something important by helping us identify the economic story that drives our era. This story affects all of us in profound ways (and will continue to do so even more, judging from the monetization of our online personas, the substitution of corporate largesse for shrinking public funds, the global spread of GMO crops, increasing pharmaceutical influence in government, and on and on.) We need to know what we are immersed in if we want to choose a different life.

The last part of the book looks at parallel structures - ways that people manage to move out from under the monoculture. I really appreciate F. S. Michaels' clarity regarding the risks one takes choosing to dis-engage from the economic story. However, if I have one disappointment with this book, it's that I felt like I needed much more of this, more examples of people finding their own way with audacity and grit and real-life results. I craved more details, more strategies for overcoming the monoculture. I hope the author writes another book just about this.

Overall, I think Monoculture does a tremendous job of taking some wide-ranging and complex ideas and distilling them in a way that gets to their essence. The writing is clear and jargon-free without oversimplifying things. It is clear that this book is the result of hard thinking, lots of research, and tight editing. Every sentence pulls its weight; there is no extra fat anywhere. F. S. Michaels makes good on supporting the ambitious claim made in the title - not an easy thing to do!
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