- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Edition Unstated edition (December 8, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684862697
- ISBN-13: 978-0684862699
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 73 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress Paperback – December 8, 1999
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James K. Glassman The Washington Post American will prosper as long as we allow our trust in what Virginia Postrel in her brilliant new book, The Future and Its Enemies, calls dynamism -- freewheeling, even playful, change -- [to] overcome our fear of the future.
Daniel Silver The Wall Street Journal A pointed and provocative cultural critique.
Alan Wolfe The New Republic A lively, engaging, and thought-provoking book.
Etelka Lehoczky Solon Vibrant with genuinely remarkable new ideas...Postrel's prose is a delight to read. It bubbles with salubrious little maxims, the kind that reignite one's flagging sense of intellectual adventure.
Colin Walters The Washington Times Exciting, a very important book.
Arthur Hirsch The Baltimore Sun Virginia Postrel is stirring it up...arousing praise and criticism across the country.
John Derbyshire National Review Postrel's aim is to provide a defense of adventurous, optimistic attitudes to social and technological change. That she has done very admirably, with passion and vigor.
Anthony Day Los Angeles Times The strength of The Future and Its Enemies lies in the author's passionate belief in the inherent virtue in creativity, innovation, and competition.
James W. Ceaser The Weekly Standard It is a fervent partisan statement, an unabashedly dynamist work. Postrel's conviction displays itself not just in the content of the book, but in the style she has developed to explain it. Postrel writes like a dynamo.
Michael Barone U.S. News & World Report In industrial America, centralized bureaucracies believed they could identify and impose what 1910's management expert F. W Taylor called "the one best way" In post-industrial America, Virginia Postrel argues in her insightful book The Future and Its Enemies, it makes better sense to set out simple rules, allow flexibility and accountability.
About the Author
Virginia Postrel is the editor of Reason magazine and a columnist for Forbes and its companion technology magazine, Forbes ASAP. Her work also appears in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and other major publications. She lives in Los Angeles. Her Web site is at www.dynamist.com.
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The sight of West Shore Longshoreman (who make >$100K/year) marching with "Dykes for Action" and EarthFirst! against free-trade and the Schumpeterian forces of economic change blew me away until I remembered this book.
I found this an incredible way of looking at serious conflicts in our current world. A very worthwhile read!
The substistence farmer who leaves his family home in rural Malaysia for a job in a factory that exports throughout the world actively seeks change and a new future. The reactionary enviromentalist (ignoring the fact that the ecosystem is healthier now than it has been in 150 years!) wants us to return to flint knapping and village-bartering. Oddly enough, "The Big 3" automakers have transformed themselves from protectionist-oriented organizations of stability to change-oriented, outsourcing, global corporations.
Immigration and those who benefit from (or threatened by it) is a force of change. So is the Internet. These new ways of interacting and doing business are met with fear, resistence and restrictions by those who want things to stay the same.
Postrel goes further identifying a "technocracy" that, supposedly, welcomes change, but believes it needs to be managed for it to be orderly and beneficial for all (All the while seeking to amass and control power in central authorities). The increased political contributions from info-tech companies indicates that we all have our price.
I enjoyed the book immensely, and thought its pronouncements on the bizarre alliances between "right" and "left" quite enlightening.
The book's central theme involves a conflict between what Postrel calls "stasism" and "dynamism," where the former view involves a blend of both reactionaries (whose primary value is social stability) and technocrats (whose primary value is control - "one best way for everyone"). This analysis enables us to understand the weird overlaps between reactionary environmentalists, who think that the only threat ecosystems face is human-caused instability, and conservatives, who fear cultural instability ("I refuse to let you affect my life.")
Then there are the technocrats, who, as Postrel ably describes, think that if one day care center has an in-house play area, then all of them should. Postrel quotes with merry abandon, laying bare the code in which technocrats talk (they love phrases like "national standards," "comprehensive plans," etc.).
These then are the future's enemies, and they tend to share either a distrust or ignorance of what Postrel, following F.A. Hayek, calls "localized" or "tacit" knowledge. Hayek described such knowledge as "the knowledge of specific circumstances, time, and place" -- that is, the sort of knowledge no technocrat in Washington could ever master, no matter how big his computer. The existence of this sort of knowledge is the reason why large-scale plans foisted on everyone, regardless of circumstances, tend to fail, and why markets, with their endless ability to customize and tailor products to even the most obscure of needs, tend to succeed.
Hayek wrote of these things many years ago, but even he disparaged his own writing skills. (Nonetheless, I am hard-pressed to think of a greater social thinker in the 20th century than Hayek.) It is a good thing that there are people like Postrel to take up the banner.
She thoroughly destroys the notion that 'there is nothing new under that sun'. While the universe, therefore our earth, is necessarily finite, we misunderstand this finiteness because we misunderstand the different combinations things can be arranged in. For example, a deck of cards has only 52 cards, but the number of combinations you can put the cards into is 52x51x50x49x...x3x2x1, which is a number larger than the number of particles in the universe! So whenever you shuffle a deck of cards, you can rest assured, that that is probably the one and only time that arrangement of cards will ever be in existence... ever.
People are so inventive and creative and always looking for new things. Obviously, there will always be new things. Every time someone declares that we are nearing the end of history, science, technology, etc. it's safe to say they have no idea what they are talking about. We need to let people be as creative and as inventive as they can. It will only make our lives better, on the whole. There will always be setbacks, but as long as people can think, we will always find a way to make out of those setbacks.
The book is a stunning, intelligent look at modern life. I liked it so much, I bought The Substance of Style, which is, yet, another insightful look at modern life.
Most recent customer reviews
Stasists vs. dynamists -- this is as pertinent today as it was 20 years ago.
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