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Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism Hardcover – December 26, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ex–Chicago Tribune correspondent Longworth (Global Squeeze) paints a bleak, evocative portrait of the Midwest's losing struggle with foreign competition and capitalist gigantism. It's a landscape of shuttered factories, desperate laid-off workers, family farms gobbled up by agribusiness, once great cities like Detroit and Cleveland now in ruins, small towns devolved into depopulated rural slums haunted by pensioners and meth-heads. But the harshest element of the book is Longworth's own pitiless ideology of globalism. In his telling, Midwesterners are sluggish, unskilled, risk-averse mediocrities, clinging to obsolete industrial-age dreams of job security, allergic to change, indifferent to education and totally unfit for the global age. They are doomed because global competition is unstoppable, says Longworth, who dismisses the idea of trade barriers as simplistic nonsense purveyed by conspiracy theorists. The silver linings Longworth floats—biotechnology, proposals for regional cooperation—are meager and iffy. The Midwest's real hope, he insists, lies in a massive influx of mostly low-wage immigrant workers and in enclaves of the rich and brainy, like Chicago and Ann Arbor, where the creative class sells nebulous information solutions to dropouts and Ph.D.s. It's not the Middle West that's under siege in Longworth's telling; it's the now apparently quaint notion of a middle class. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“One place in America that nobody can accuse of being unaware of China's economic ascent is the heartland--the industrial region that formed the center of the 20th century's most dynamic and innovative economy, but now is synonymous with unemployed workers and foreclosed houses. Former foreign correspondent Longworth's gloomy assessment of the prospects of a region that has been one of globalization's clear losers is harsh. But while his tale of the failures of complacent workers, inept managers and clueless politicians to confront global competition takes place firmly in the nation's interior, he offers little reason for those living elsewhere to feel insulated from similar threats.” ―John Sparks, Newsweek

“A passionate, probing and painfully honest book.” ―Jonathan Eig, Wall Street Journal

“A superb analysis of the crisis in the Midwest and sober advice on how to alleviate, if not eliminate, the region's pain. Moreover, he captures the flavor of the Midwest today, the nuevo Midwest -- replete with immigrants, urban/suburban/rural ghettos, hollowed-out cities, abandoned small towns, failing schools and feckless politicians. But it is still breathing and not without assets -- rich farmland, a plethora of fresh water, agricultural and industrial expertise and excellent research universities -- and a few success stories, a reborn Chicago, most notably....Caught in the Middle provides a brilliant battle plan.” ―Peter A. Coclanis, Chicago Tribune

“But Longworth's book should be of interest even to those who have never come closer to America's heartland than to change planes at O'Hare. Almost any chapter of "Caught in the Middle" could generate a book's worth of debate anywhere in this country: What's to become of higher ed - or K-12 ed for that matter. The structure of state and local government as an impediment to remaking the economy. The role of immigration. The future of agriculture. The future of small towns not close enough to a metropolitan area to serve as bedroom communities.” ―Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“The author has performed a public service by detailing the problem areas - farming, ethanol production, the loss of manufacturing, immigration and so on - that are challenging the citizens and their offspring in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. We who think we've got it so good out here, far from the craziness of the East and West coasts, need to be shaken from our indifferent state of mind. Longworth makes a valiant stab at that.” ―Repps Hudson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596914130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596914131
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book interesting, because I was Senior Economist and Deputy Director of Economic Analysis for the Indiana Department of Commerce in the 1980's for the Administration of Governor Robert Orr. During those years I was also co-chair for the Economic Development Task Force of the Great Lakes Commission, an interstate compact with a charter from the U.S. Congress like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

One of Longworth's theses is that the Midwest manufacturing region must be treated as a whole region, and that the individual States cannot address the economic adjustment to globalization in isolation from one another. I can agree that States stealing employers from one another cannot make the needed economic adjustments imposed by globalization; this is merely a zero-sum game for the region, and is not a remedy. While with the Great Lakes Commission I found that the Economic Development Task Force benefited its participants to the extent that we shared our research findings. But the Commission could take no action on economic development.

Contrary to Longworth I found that effective action is possible with the State governments, and that the best instrument for the State government action is the fiscal budget's public investment sectors. The Indiana's budget is about nine percent of its gross state product, and about half of the total budget is public investments: i.e. higher education, primary and secondary education, highways, airports, and water ports. These public investments facilitate development of the State economy's tax base and thus yield increases in tax collections independently of tax rates.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Caught in the Middle is how I felt in reading Richard Longworth's book on the economic future of the American Heartland, so in that sense I believe that Longworth has succeeded. But, it would have been more satisfying, and ultimately more helpful if the strengths and weaknessness of the book had been reversed. Longworth starts out with a great analysis of how the Midwest did not change when the world changed around it, resulting in the collaspe of the economic stability of the region. However, half way through the book, Longworth changes gears and starts preaching the gospel of immigration. This is his solution for cities large and small in the Midwest. If this has been one chapter, then perhaps I wouldn't have had such a negative reaction, but it is in nearly every chapter and endless. Further, it shows a disconnect with the first part of book. The problem is that he shows convincingly in the beginning that factories have left many a Midwestern town. The success stories, the reinvention of smaller towns that he points to are where factories still exist, but have had an influx of immigrant workers providing vital energy and resources to a community. Fair enough. But, you need the factories still standing for that paradigm to work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books tells more about what's going on in America today than anything I've ever read. Longworth's descriptions of the economic upheaval in the Mid-West
apply just as well to other areas such as New England
where I live. Most valuable are his analysyes of the
the communities and the companies that reside in them that have learned to thrive in the new global economy -
Chicago, Ann Arbor, Peoria, Columbus (Indiana), and
Madison (Wisconsin). His comments on education are right on target - the community colleges are providing the training needed by the new workforce. This is must
reading for anyone who is concerned about the country's

William Saunders
Whately, MA
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Caught in the Middle is well written, and provides much food for thought. The American midwest has suffered terribly as a result of globalization, and so the book is addressing an important topic. But there are many problem's with Longworth's analysis. First, Longworth is quite dismissive of the critics of globalization--he dismisses any criticism of the headlong rush into ending all regulation of trade as crackpots and anti-intellectual traditionalists. But his faith in global market capitalism--which he sees as inevitable and ultimately good--is really akin to a religion. The book would benefit from a global perspective on globalism--why, for example, did Western Europe make the tradition away from closed markets more successfully, and with much less pain, than the United States? The answer is that Western Europe approached globalization in a much smarter way. The European Economic Community started not a a pure freed trade pact, but a customs union between nations that were relatively similar to each other in standards of living, and in the ways they regulated working conditions and the environment. The EC gradually invited poorer countries into that union, and required them to raise their labor and environmental standards as a condition of participation. In contrast, the US rushed headlong into free trade agreements with countries with profoundly lower standards of living, and profoundly weaker regulations on working conditions and environmental regulations. This was driven by corporate greed, and the results were utterly predictable--the rapid shift of production of almost everything to places where corporations could pay workers pennies and hour, and were free to contaminate the environment to their heart's content.Read more ›
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