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The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV Hardcover – November 5, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (November 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081314082X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813140827
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

""Cantor is undoubtedly one of the most original scholars in the field, and it will be welcome to have a collection of his essays in a single volume."" -- William Irwin, Series Editor, Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture



""The cause of freedom has rarely had as creative a defender as Paul Cantor. To follow his thinking and writing is to be changed by them. His outlook is romantic, intellectually robust, and new. With this outlook, he finds the idea of freedom in the most inauspicious places, not only in Shakespeare (his specialization) but also in popular culture, of which he is an incredibly trenchant observer. The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture is as astute an examination of the idea of liberty as you will find anywhere in the history of liberal literature, and one that resonates especially in our time."" -- Jeffrey Tucker, Laissez Faire Books



""Paul Cantor demonstrates, often in new and surprising ways, what popular culture has to say about America's most significant political and social issues. Cantor's book is remarkably wide-ranging and well informed, with important insights on everything from South Park to Have Gun--Will Travel. In this book there is something of interest for everyone who either loves or hates pop culture, or simply wonders what one should think of it. There are provocative comments on every page, firmly supported by Cantor's immense knowledge of cultural and intellectual history. The book is brilliantly written -- smart, sharp, completely free of jargon, and, frankly, a lot of fun."" -- Stephen Cox, University of California, San Diego



""Paul Cantor knows all the words to the songs in the South Park movie, speaks fluent Klingon, and has forgotten more about the X-Files than Fox Mulder ever knew. Finally, pop-culture nerds have an intellectual to call their own."" -- Jonathan V. Last, senior writer The Weekly Standard



""The incomparable Cantor has blessed the libertarian movement with a literary voice. Would that we ahd more Cantors to show us how literature flowers when freedom flourishes." -- Allen Porter Mendenhall, The Independent Review" -- Allen Porter Mendenhall, The Independent Review



""Cantor's latest book is a collection of wide-ranging essays that brims with brilliant insights on particular movies and TV shows." -- Thomas S. Hibbs, National Review" --



""By dipping into pop-culture portrayals of 'both top-down and bottom-up models of order,' the author makes it easier and more enjoyable for today's readers to relate to the ideas he discusses, including Marxist ' culture industry' notions and absolute state control a la Hobbes." -- Alan Wallace, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review" --



""This is an exceptional romp through television and film from the past seveal decades, and serves to entertain as much as to instruct us that the world of entertainment contains many valuable lessons in economics, liberty, and morality." -- Bruce Edward Walker, The Weekly Standard" --



""Cantor can take pretty much any television show, such as Gilligan's Isalnd, and dissect it using everything from Homer to Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan, and entertain you while doing it." -- Ryan W. McMaken, The LRC Blog" --



""With a deep knowledge of literature and philosophy as well as film and TV, Cantor brings scholarship together with entertainment. He's fun to read, and you can learn a few things, too." -- David Luhrssen, expressmilwaukee.com" --



""This sweeping, inclusive survey of American popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries is a masterwork. Cantor offers thoughtful readings, detailed analyses of the works in question, and an authoritative overview of the ways in which pop and classical culture mesh to create the fabric of contemporary American consciousness." -- Choice" --



""Written in clear language for the curious layman, but carefully footnoted for the scholar, Invisible Hand helps us look in a new way at the images on the screen that undeniably have an enormous effect on the viewer's notions of history, government, freedom, and the human experience." -- LewRockwell.com" --



"Political theorists have much to gain from reading The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture." -- The Review of Politics

About the Author

Paul A. Cantor is Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Among his wide-ranging and acclaimed writings on film and television, Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2001 by the Los Angeles Times.


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It is customary for the so-called intellectual elite to trivialize TV shows and most movies as "fluff and pabulum for the masses", but here comes this book that negates these delusions by marrying popular culture to established philosophies.
"The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture" opens with an Introduction that is an all-encompassing summary of its content and the author's perspective. It should not be skipped.
The work is divided into four parts that analyze the different political and economic influences prevailing at the time of certain TV shows and movies. Professor Cantor then fleshes out his argument by several examples of specific shows, directors and writers in 10 separate chapters, eight of which are previously published essays that have been revised for this book (except Mars Attacks and Have Gun Will Travel, which are new).
In his previous " Gilligan Unbound" (2001), Cantor defended pop culture but, this time, he educates; in this well-researched and documented treatise that should be on the curriculum of any serious post-graduate course on the subject.

The three chapters in part one deal with the "Western", such as John Ford's The Searchers, Deadwood and Have Gun Will Travel and its influence on Roddenberry's future show, Star Trek. Cantor ties in the works of Adam Smith and John Locke in the narrative of Deadwood, "If you'r on it and improve it, you own it", as an example of libertarian thought.
In "Have Gun Will Travel" Richard Boone's character feels superior to the townsfolk that he comes to help, similar to "the tendency of Hollywood elites to express their sense of superiority to ordinary Americans". This contrasts with Mars Attacks that "champions ordinary Americans for their ability to come together to overcome obstacles".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ryan on May 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Cantor, an expert on Shakespeare and a professor of English at the University of Virginia, has again returned to the topic of television and film with his new book The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV, and further expands on the topics of globalization, markets, and state power first presented in his 2001 book Gilligan Unbound.

This new volume is even more substantial than the previous one, featuring ten essays on film and television ranging from UFO movies to Westerns to South Park. In addition, the introduction provides an extensive discussion on the very nature of pop culture, how it is produced, and how it should be interpreted.

Written in clear language for the curious layman, but carefully footnoted for the scholar, Invisible Hand helps us look in a new way at the images on the screen that undeniably have an enormous effect on the viewer's notions of history, government, freedom, and the human experience.

Cantor begins by explaining the conflict between liberty and authority by looking at two distinct and opposing options in the Western genre offered by the television shows 'Have Gun - Will Travel' (1957-1963) and 'Deadwood' (2004-2006).

'Have Gun' provides the (conventional and authoritarian) view offered by Westerns, and as Cantor notes, the show's hero Paladin imposes order on a frontier composed largely of racist rubes, petty tyrants and superstitious fools. Every town, it seems, has a lynch mob, and the "unending sequence of tyrannical rich men" in 'Have Gun' sets the stage for many showdowns between the enlightened and refined hero Paladin and his backward enemies.

Paladin, Cantor notes, looks remarkably like the members of the ruling class in Washington D.C.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. van der Linden on May 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
...and should not be received as such. I came to this Amazon.com page by way of an online review, and in that review I was guided to a brief interview with Dr. Cantor published in the April 2013 edition of the Ludwig von Mises Institute's monthly newsletter, ~The Free Market~ (available at [...] ).

In that source, Dr. Cantor is quoted as saying:

"Many people who condemn pop culture and dismiss it as artistically worthless dwell on the fact that films and television shows are almost never the products of a single artist working on his own. It is therefore important to show that many of the great works of high culture grew out of a collaborative process too. There is nothing about cooperation in artistic creation that precludes high quality. Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but they may also each add a distinctive flavor and work together to bring the recipe to perfection. The processes of synergy and feedback work in popular culture just the way they do in other areas of human endeavor. This is all part of my defense of popular culture - to demonstrate that the conditions of production in film and television are not necessarily incompatible with artistic as well as commercial success."

This statement on the part of the author may help the prospective reader to better appreciate Dr. Cantor's purpose in creating this book and thereby inform the decision to purchase.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Pickett on March 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
will read this book at some point, but $19 for the kindle version. I am curious who set the price and is it selling well at $19. What is great about digital products you can make profit on volume. It is tempting to inflate the price, but if you can charge a very low rate, a huge volume people will become your customers. Again, will enjoy your book at some point.
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