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Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Hors Catalogue)
Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There (Hors Catalogue)
von David Brooks
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Trying to Celebrate the Rise of a New Upper Class..., 28. Juni 2000
I read the cover flap of Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, David Brooks's work of "comic sociology"--a (much funnier and wittier) updating of C. Wright Mills's The Power Elite. I chuckled at the cover flap's pointing out that the "Bobos"--bourgeois bohemians, Brooks's semi-acronym for America's new dominant class--regard extravagant spending on luxuries as vulgar, but extravagant spending on high-quality versions of "utilitiarian" necessities as praiseworthy.
I began chapter 1. Brooks was describing his reactions to reading the New York Times wedding announcements page:
"When America had a pedigreed elite, the [New York Times wedding announcements page] emphasized noble birth and breeding. But in America today it's genius and geniality that enables you to join the elite.... [On] the Times weddings page, you can almost feel the force of the mingling SAT scores. It's Dartmouth marries Berkeley, MBA weds Ph.D.... and summa cum laude embraces summa cum laude (you rarely see a summa settling for a magna--the tension in such a marriage would be too great)."
I (B.A. summa cum laude in Social Studies from Harvard, M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard) looked across the bedroom at my wife (B.A. summa cum laude in American Studies from Amherst, M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, J.D. from Harvard Law School).
I looked up at the $750 ceiling fan in our bedroom. (It is a true necessity in our un-airconditioned house for about two months a year--vastly more effective at cooling our top-floor bedroom than the old $200 ceiling fan it replaced).
I thought: "Bingo. This guy David Brooks has just reduced me to a sociological category." I thought "this is a book to pay attention to."
And it did turn out to be quite a good book.
On one level, the book is about upper-class taste and style in America at the beginning of the twentieth century. It used to be that upper-class style was based on the display of wealth: the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island; the lines of Cadillacs; the power to import large chunks of Italian palazzi and install them on a hilltop. Now upper-class style has changed: it is based on the display of sufficient taste to know what the best is and to choose it--whether the best coffee, the best parka, the best food, the best building materials, or whatever. One knows enough to know that the best cup of iced coffee is a "a vente almond frappuccino made from the Angolan shade-grown blend with raw sugar." It is not OK to spend extravagantly on something for display along; it is OK to spend extravagantly on something that is useful in enhancing one's authentic personality.
Brooks believes that this new sense of taste and style is the result of the collision of the "Bohemian" culture of authenticity with the "bourgeois" culture of sober achievement, and that the "Bobos" are the first group that have found a way to be both authentic, spontaneous, and creative on the one hand and disciplined, industrious, and prosperous on the other.
The problem with this, of course, is that for most upper-class buyers a Range Rover is not a tool to use in off-road wilderness exploration (although it is for my uncle W. Bradford DeLong) but something to drive the kids to kindergarten. A Wolf range is used not to run a restaurant in your home but stand idle while people who work too late bring home Chinese food, or just go out to dinner. Brooks is well aware of this. His dissection of how necessary a well-stocked ice-axe section is to an outdoor-supply store that sells to Bobos who have only seen a glacier from the deck of a cruise ship is hilarious. The best parts of the book are those in which Brooks mocks the tendency of Bobos to buy state-of-the-industrial-art heavy-duty tools--of any kind--that will rarely or never see their designed-for use. The best parts expose the hollowness of the claim that upper-class style and taste combine Bohemian and bourgeois cultures: the bourgeois is there, but it is coupled not with Bo- but with Fauxhemianism.
Yet in spite of this--in spite of the social waste and onanistic narcissism of $15,000 slate shower stalls to get in touch with "nature"--in the last analysis Brooks approves of his Bobos. The book is not, at bottom, a critique but a celebration of Bobohood.
Why? Because Brooks is a conservative. And he faces the standard problem faced by conservatives in America. Conservatives like the past. They celebrate the wisdom in hierarchy and tradition. They celebrate order, and fight change. But in America the tradition is one of democracy and mobility. Our tradition is to be untraditional. Our stability is to always be turning society head-over-heels. Thus conservatism in America inevitably falls into incoherence, soon followed by a nervous breakdown--conservatives find themselves either calling for radical change in America to reduce democratic influences or celebrating our tradition of overturning traditions. Neither position is comfortable.
Brooks wants to celebrate America's aristocracy: those who, in a long passage he quotes from Edmund Burke's Appeal from the Old to the New Whigs, are:
"...bred in a place of estimation... see nothing low and sordid from one's infancy... taught to respect oneself... stand on such elevated ground as to be enabled to take a large view of the wide-spread and infinitely diversified combinations of men and affairs in a large society; to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; to be be enabled to draw the court and attention of the wise and learned, wherever they are to be found... to be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honor and duty... to possess the virtues of diligence, order, constancy, and regularity, and to have cultivated an habitual regard to commutative justice: these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural aristocracy, without which there is no nation..."
For Brooks, because his Bobos are powerful, rich, and influential--and because he is a conservative--they must have the virtues that Burke ascribes to an aristocracy. Therefore Brooks must praise them.
But what is the connection between Burke's "natural aristocracy" (which existed mostly in Burke's own fantasies) and the SUV-driving, $500 hiking boot-wearing, satisfied lawyer who will drink only shade-grown coffee who is the ideal type of Brooks's Bobo? The resemblance between Burke's fantasy and Brooks's Bobo exists only in Brooks's mind. And it is the fact that Brooks cannot quite make the leap--cannot quite feel toward what he sees as America's new aristocracy the way a conservative should--that makes the book feel, in the end, a little bit unbalanced. Brooks cannot quite accept the fact that the idol he worships has such feet of clay, and that the feet of clay are so large...


Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
von Robert Wright
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The Arrow of Cultural Evolution, 19. Juni 2000
Back in 1794 the Enlightenment philosphe Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet wrote his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind--the boldest of the eighteenth-century declarations that humanity had and was destined to see Progress with a capital P. Condorcet was a powerful and convincing advocate--Malthus wrote his Essay on Population explicitly against Condorcet. But that was the high water mark of belief in Progress. By and large the past two centuries have seen the reaction, and confidence in human Progress--technological, political, humanistic, and moral--fell out of intellectual favor.
Now comes Robert Wright, previously author of Three Scientists and Their Gods and The Moral Animal, with an excellent book accompanied by an enthusiastic blurb by William McNeill. Wright's purpose to set out the gospel of progress anew, this time using the language of game theory as his principal mode of rhetoric. At its most basic level Wright's point is that interactions are positive-sum: there are gains from cooperation. Thus human cultural evolution has an arrow and a direction: toward greater complexity, toward higher civilization.
The direction arises at two levels. First, individual humans seek out things that increase their own powers and capabilities. Cooperation tends to do this, so people find ways to cooperate. But the most important form of cooperation is one that is almost impossible to stop: the simple sharing of knowledge. Two heads are better than one. The denser the population (and the better the means of communication) the more ideas will be generated, the larger the number of ideas that turn out to be useful, and the faster will be progress. People are, Wright argues--in my view correctly---naturally acquisitive in that they want useful things, and will eagerly copy new technologies they hear about. Thus Wright sees inventions such as agriculture as inevitable--not as a lucky accident.
Second, at the level of human societies, the societies that are more powerful--have better technologies, more effective social arrangements, greater population densities, and so forth--either swamp their neighbors or force their neighbors to copy them in order to maintain their autonomy. In Eurasia, where contact was constant from an early age--from the year 200 on one could travel from Gibralter to the mouth of China's Yangtze River and cross only three borders--a good innovation at one end would diffuse all the way to the other in a matter of centuries. He believes that the wide spread of religion in agricultural civilizations proves that its productivity-boosting and division of labor-enhancing effects outweigh its exploitative side: those societies that did not have temples and priests did not flourish.
Wright dismisses gloomy talk of barbarian invasions and the fall of empires by asserting that one goes from furs-and-swords to linen-and-pens in three generations: "The Romans weren't exactly hailed by the Greeks as cultural equals when they happened on the scene.... Yet they were massively infiltrated by classical Greek memes, which they then spread across the wider world. In Horace's phrase, 'The Greeks, captive, took the victors captive'. And, anyway, who were the Greeks to look down on intrusive barbarians?... The early Greeks had a title of honor, ptoliporthos, that meant 'sacker of cities'.... But whether these 'barbarians' sack cities, or hover on the periphery and trade... or ally with them in war or ally against them, one outcome is nearly certain: win, lose, or draw, the 'barbarians' become vehicles for advanced memes...." For what truly matters are the basic technologies of agriculture and craft, not the products of high civilizations. And even when you do have significant regression--in the post-Mycenean Dark Age, in the post-Roman Dark Age, or in the wake of the Mongols--Wright reminds us that "the world makes backup copies."
Wright also dismisses gloomy talk of the stagnation of Ming and Qing China, the fall of the Mughal Empire, and the technological and organizational stasis of the Ottoman Empire by arguing that the key unit is not Europe vs. Asia but is instead Eurasia. Sooner or later, Wright argues, some part of Eurasia--it did not have to be Europe--would have hit up on a superior social and technological recipe to that of the mid second millennium empires, and when it did the rest would have copied it. Wright is of the school that holds that China almost broke through to modernity, writing of how paper and woodblock printing were used to distribute useful texts--Pictures and Poems on Husbandry and Weaving, Mathematics for Daily Use, and the Treatise on Citrus Fruit. The recipe that ultimately proved successful--what Wright calls the economic logic of freedom--was stopped in many places: "indeed, on balance, in the centuries after the printing press was invented, European governments grew more despotic." But it only had to succeed once. And given sufficient cultural variation, sooner or later a breakthrough was inevitable.
But even if you buy all of Wright's argument that forms of increasing returns--non-zero-sum-ness, as Wright calls it--impart an arrow of increasing complexity and division of labor to human social, cultural, and economic evolution, this does not necessarily amount to Progress--at least not to anything we would see as progress in human morality or human happiness. For why should organizational complexity be Progress? As Wright puts it: "...it would be hard to argue that there was net moral gain between the hunter-gatherer and ancient-state phases of cultural evolution. The Egyptians had slaves--which virtually no known hunter-gatherer societies had--and their soldiers returned from wars of conquest proudly brandishing the severed penises of their slain foes."
So in the end Wright is forced to play a game of three-card monte to reach conclusions that support his belief in Progress. The card labeled "complexity" must be switched for the card labeled "Progress" without our noticing. In the industrial core, at the end of the twentieth century, we are inclined to tolerate this switch--to say that it is obvious that a highly complicated and productive civilization will have widely-distributed individual wealth, lots of individual freedom, and soft forms of rule, and that social complexity is civilization. But back in the middle of the twentieth century this switch could not have been accomplished at all: "complexity yes," people would have said, "but progress no." And who knows how things will look in a hundred more years?
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743- 1794), was an aristocrat, a mathematician, an official of the Academy of Sciences, and was a friend of Voltaire (1694-1778). He strongly supported the revolution of 1789 as an example of human progress. But the Committee of Public Safety turned on him: he was arrested, and died in prison before he could be executed.


Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
von Robert Wright
  Gebundene Ausgabe

10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Belief in Progress Cloaked in the Rhetoric of Game Theory, 1. Juni 2000
Back in 1794 the Enlightenment philosphe Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet wrote his Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind--the boldest of the eighteenth-century declarations that humanity had and was destined to see Progress with a capital P. Condorcet was a powerful and convincing advocate--Malthus wrote his Essay on Population explicitly against Condorcet. But that was the high water mark of belief in Progress. By and large the past two centuries have seen the reaction, and confidence in human Progress--technological, political, humanistic, and moral--fell out of intellectual favor.
Now comes Robert Wright, previously author of Three Scientists and Their Gods and The Moral Animal, with an excellent book accompanied by an enthusiastic blurb by William McNeill. Wright's purpose to set out the gospel of progress anew, this time using the language of game theory as his principal mode of rhetoric. At its most basic level Wright's point is that interactions are positive-sum: there are gains from cooperation. Thus human cultural evolution has an arrow and a direction: toward greater complexity, toward higher civilization.
The direction arises at two levels. First, individual humans seek out things that increase their own powers and capabilities. Cooperation tends to do this, so people find ways to cooperate. But the most important form of cooperation is one that is almost impossible to stop: the simple sharing of knowledge. Two heads are better than one. The denser the population (and the better the means of communication) the more ideas will be generated, the larger the number of ideas that turn out to be useful, and the faster will be progress. People are, Wright argues--in my view correctly---naturally acquisitive in that they want useful things, and will eagerly copy new technologies they hear about. Thus Wright sees inventions such as agriculture as inevitable--not as a lucky accident.
Second, at the level of human societies, the societies that are more powerful--have better technologies, more effective social arrangements, greater population densities, and so forth--either swamp their neighbors or force their neighbors to copy them in order to maintain their autonomy. In Eurasia, where contact was constant from an early age--from the year 200 on one could travel from Gibralter to the mouth of China's Yangtze River and cross only three borders--a good innovation at one end would diffuse all the way to the other in a matter of centuries. He believes that the wide spread of religion in agricultural civilizations proves that its productivity-boosting and division of labor-enhancing effects outweigh its exploitative side: those societies that did not have temples and priests did not flourish.
Even if you buy all of Wright's argument that forms of increasing returns--non-zero-sum-ness, as Wright calls it--impart an arrow of increasing complexity and division of labor to human social, cultural, and economic evolution, this does not necessarily amount to Progress--at least not to anything we would see as progress in human morality or human happiness. For why should organizational complexity be Progress? As Wright puts it: "...it would be hard to argue that there was net moral gain between the hunter-gatherer and ancient-state phases of cultural evolution. The Egyptians had slaves--which virtually no known hunter-gatherer societies had--and their soldiers returned from wars of conquest proudly brandishing the severed penises of their slain foes."
So in the end Wright is forced to play a game of three-card monte to reach conclusions that support his belief in Progress. The card labeled "complexity" must be switched for the card labeled "Progress" without our noticing. In the industrial core, at the end of the twentieth century, we are inclined to tolerate this switch--to say that it is obvious that a highly complicated and productive civilization will have widely-distributed individual wealth, lots of individual freedom, and soft forms of rule, and that social complexity is civilization. But back in the middle of the twentieth century this switch could not have been accomplished at all: "complexity yes," people would have said, "but progress no." And who knows how things will look in a hundred more years?
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743- 1794), was an aristocrat, a mathematician, an official of the Academy of Sciences, and was a friend of Voltaire (1694-1778). He strongly supported the revolution of 1789 as an example of human progress. But the Committee of Public Safety turned on him: he was arrested, and died in prison before he could be executed.


The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future
The Politics of Bad Faith: The Radical Assault on America's Future
von David Horowitz
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1.0 von 5 Sternen How little has changed..., 2. Mai 2000
In the old days, when Horowitz edited _Ramparts_, his workswere among the most fact-free and vitriolic on the left. Now that hehas moved to the right they seem to be the same.
There are muchbetter right-wing authors to read: Frum, Bovard, Pinkerton, Podhoretz...


Hating Whitey: And Other Progressive Causes
Hating Whitey: And Other Progressive Causes
von David Horowitz
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1.0 von 5 Sternen *Sigh*, 2. Mai 2000
The title says it all. It's too bad that so many authors think that the way to gain attention is to indulge in race-baiting.
The America that Horowitz portrays is one in which liberal do-gooders' policies give African-Americans a free ride. It has little or nothing to do with the America in which we all live--in which racial discrimination against African-Americans is still alarmingly prevalent.


The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)
von Kenneth Pomeranz
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5.0 von 5 Sternen China's Advocate, 21. März 2000
China's Advocate: A Review of Ken Pomeranz's The GreatDivergence
The Great Divergence -------------------- Forsome time now it has been becoming clear that there is something wrong with the traditional story of the coming of the nineteenth-century European industrial revolution and the associated trans-oceanic European empires. The conventional wisdom sees Western European civilization's edge building gradually yet inexorably--with a pronounced setback during the Dark Ages--from the days when the conquests of Julius Caesar and Rome's Julian dynasty emperors brought the high civilization of the Greeks to Eboracum, Londinium, Lutetia, and Colonia Claudia. Western Europeans then build on top of Greek philosophy, Greek literature, Roman engineering, and Roman law. From Naples in the south to Stockholm in the north, from Vienna in the east to Sagres in the west, the tide builds to a flood: the rule of law, the consent of estates to taxation, rational thought, the replacement of magic by religion, security of private property, the horse collar, the scientific revolution, and war-driven technological advance gave--according to the conventional wisdom--European societies as of 1500 a substantial and decisive edge in technology and productivity. During the early modern period from 1500 to 1800 this decisive edge blossomed into the social, political and economic institutions of the modern age that created today's wealthy industrial democracies.
Elsewhere, according to the conventional wisdom, civilizations with agriculture, metalworking, and complex social organization hit the Malthusian wall: populatoin pressure and lack of resources kept standards of living low in spite of sophisticated but non-mechanical technology, and elites focused much more on grabbing the surplus from the people and from one another than on enlarging the surplus through further investment or innovation. The great Eurasian agrarian empires and civilizations had larger populations, more splendid courts, and richer elites, but they were a dead end for a humanity trapped under a monstrous regiment of kings and priests.
#
Eurasian Parity --------------- However there was always something wrong with this triumphal march, something visible to those with eyes to look. The fifteenth-century Portuguese Infante Dom Henrique sat in his castle at Sagres and sent his ships in small squadrons groping for perhaps a thousand miles south along the coast of Africa. The fifteenth-century Chinese notable Cheng Ho--in modern transliteration Zheng Ze, the eunuch admiral who was a trusted lieutenant of the Yung-lo Emperor--took 30,000 men and seventy ships on eight voyages to the Indian Ocean, reaching as far as Zanzibar and projecting power on such a scale that Sri Lankan kings who were not properly respectful of Chinese power were brought back to China to make their apologies. The Ottoman Emperor Mehmet II deployed the largest and strongest pieces of artillery in the world--specially made for the occasion--for his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Great Moghul Babur's use of advanced technology--matchlocks--and tactics--wagons tied together as field fortifications--allowed him to decisively defeat an army eight times his size at Panipat and conquer northern India. We think that the populations of China and India grew more rapidly than the population of Europe from 1500-1850: this suggests--at least if we believe in Malthus--somewhat more prosperous societies with more rapidly growing economies in the Eurasian "east."
In the efficiency of agriculture, in the scale of social organization, in the sophistication of consumer goods, in the density of population, and even in navigation and military technology the fifteenth-century Eurasian east--from the Ottoman Empire through Iran and India to southeast Asia, China, and Japan--appears nowhere less and almost always more "civilized" than the small, semi-anarchic proto-nation-states of western Europe. As Pomeranz puts it, the core regions of Eurasia "the Yangzi delta, the Kanto plain, Britain and the Netherlands, Gujarat--shared some crucial features with each other, which they did not share with the rest of the continent or subcontinent around them... relatively free markets, extensive handicraft industries, highly commercialized agriculture..." The similarities are more impressive than the differences.
So what happened? If the western European edge in technology, organization, and productivity was not a long-standing broad tidal wave building slowly since the coronation of Charlemagne, then how did the world we live in come to be? How did the Indian Ocean in the sixteenth century become a Portuguese (and later a Dutch) lake? How did Britain conquer India in the century from 1750? And why did the industrial revolution take place in late eighteenth century Britain? In Ken Pomeranz's book The Geat Divergence we have one serious attempt at an answer. It is a wonderful book. It is the first book I have read that takes the problem of the post-1500 great divergence between the Eurasian west and the Eurasian east seriously and thoughtfully, and that does not run far ahead of its evidence in pursuit of pre-chosen conclusions.
This is not to say that I agree with the book. I think that it misses--or rather downplays--three important phenomena that, in my opinion at least, are key to understanding the past millennium of world history. The first is the shift in the locus of invention--not in the level of technology, but in the birth of new technologies--from China to Europe around the year 1000, and subsequently what appears to be a steadily growing European lead in inventiveness and science. The second is the extraordinary organizational coherence of western Europe by 1700, which shows itself in areas as divergent as the military superiority of European-trained musketeers in eighteenth century India, in the extraordinary reach and longevity of Europe's armed trans-oceanic trading companies, and the requirements of at least the appearance of due process of law--trials and bills of attainder--imposed on even the most tyrannical northwest European rulers. The third is the late nineteenth century firebreak: as Sidney Pollard put it, the fire of nineteenth-century industrialization burned brightly to the limits of western European populations and colonial settlements, smoldered in eastern Europe, and there stopped (with the single exception of Japan)--no nineteenth-century industrialization in Turkey, Egypt, India, or China. The fact that the nineteenth-century Eurasian east did not while the nineteenth-century Eurasian west easily did adopt British-invented industrial technologies must be explained somehow.
But even though I think that in the end the book misses the bullseye, it is definitely a solid hit on the target. It is very much worth reading. In the past I have had a very hard time finding a book that challenges the conventional wisdom that I am not ashamed to give to my students--for example, I can't get my students to take Immanuel Wallerstein seriously, for his unwillingness to count makes it impossible to assess whether his anecdotes are representative and his teleological functionalism makes it nearly impossible to figure out just what the proposed chain of causation is; and they have a hard time dealing with Jack Goody, who splits hairs ever more finely as if deconstructing sociological and anthropological concepts will somehow lead to understanding. This is a book I will not be ashamed to give my students. And it makes me think.
#
The Grand Counterfactual ------------------------ At the core of Pomeranz's book is a grand counterfactual. Suppose that you removed the Americas from the surface of the globe: Columbus sails west in 1492 and dies of thirst in a mammoth world ocean. And suppose that you erased the coal deposits from the island of Britain and from the Rhine valley. What would post-1500 world history have looked like then?
Pomeranz's answer is that the most likely trajectory would have seen economic life in northwest Europe evolve the way that economic life in Gujerat or the Yangzi delta evolved between 1500 and 1800: a flourishing commercially-revolutionized society bumps up against ecological limits as deforestation, declining marginal products of labor, the rising ability of peripheral regions to make their own manufactures, and so forth reduce the returns to innovation and commerce and increase the rewards of landlord or priestly surplus extraction. Thus growth stops. And what growth there is follows a labor-intensive, resource-economizing logic that--as it did in the nineteenth century Yangzi delta--boosts elite consumption but not mass standards of living, and leaves no space for an industrial revolution.
Pomeranz's argument is powerful. For he is right in saying that "industrial capitalism, in which the large-scale use of inanimate energy sources allowed an escape from the co END


Top Heavy: The Increasing Inequality of Wealth in America and What Can Be Done About It
Top Heavy: The Increasing Inequality of Wealth in America and What Can Be Done About It
von Edward N. Wolff
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen Very Nice Survey of Wealth Inequality, 28. November 1999
Ed Wolff's book--a review of his earlier work on wealth, with some new additional material added--documents that the United States today is a more unequal society than at any time since the Great Depression.
According to his numbers--which are lousy, but are nevertheless the best we have or are likely to acquire-- in 1929 the richest one percent of households had about 41 percent of the economy's total wealth. But the leveling associated with the Depression and World War II had reduced the richest one percent's share to about 22 percent by 1945. Thereafter, the leveling trend continued. By the mid-1970s, the richest one percent's share--including the implicit value of rights and claims on the Social Security system. of total wealth was down to 13-16 percent of the economy's total wealth. But by the late 1980s, the richest one percent's' wealth was back up to 21 percent of the economy's total wealth. And scattered pieces of information suggest that the trend toward increasing inequality has continued into the 1990s.
Increasing inequality is not due to a surge in entrepreneurial activity: economic growth was unusually low in the 1980s (in substantial part because of the drain on investment resulting from the Reagan deficits). The fortunes made were, for the most part, not to any unusual extent the by-product of especially rapid economic growth.
Rising inequality is cause for alarm for two reasons: First, in a time of high inequality politics becomes nasty and democracy becomes less secure and stable. Second, an unequal economy--an economy in which the chances of striking it rich are larger and the chances of failing to maintain middle-class incomes are larger--fails to provide adequate social insurance. Risk-averse people would, if given a choice when young, overwhelmingly prefer to live in an equally rich overall but more equally distributed society.


The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783
The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State, 1688-1783
von John Brewer
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 31,49

5.0 von 5 Sternen A true work of real genius!, 28. November 1999
"From its modest beginnings as... a minor, infrequent almost inconsequential participant in the great wars that ravaged sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe... Britain emerged in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as the military Wunderkind of the age.... [B]y the reign of George III Britain had become one of the heaviest weights in the balance of power in Europe [and]... was on the threshold of becoming a transcontinental power..."
The above quote is the opening of War, Money, and the English State. There have been many histories of Britain's military successes in the century after the expulsion of James II Stuart--biographies of the first Duke of Marlborough, histories of the British navy, narratives of the Seven Years' War, and so forth. There have been many histories of Britain's economic growth--and even attempts to explain why Britain saw such mercantile and then industrial success in the eighteenth century. But the connection? John Brewer takes on the task of filling in the gap: how was Britain's economic success translated into massive military power?
This question is especially interesting because Britain appeared to successfully mobilize its resources for eighteenth century wars in a manner very different from the continental "absolutist" powers. The apparatuses of royal secret police, lits de justice, the co-option of the middle nobility in the centralization of power and authority, and the ideology of a king "freed from the duty of observing the laws" are in large part absent from British military mobilization. It followed a different pattern--one that may have had decisive consequences for human history...
John Brewer handles his topic superbly, making The Sinews of Power one of the best books I read in 1991, and making it one of the best books I read in 1995, when I re-read it.


Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
von Michael A. Hiltzik
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2.0 von 5 Sternen My Mileage Was Low..., 27. November 1999
As always your mileage may vary. My mileage was low.
I ended Michael Hiltzik's book on Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and the invention of the computer technologies we use today disappointed. Hiltzik spent too little time on the ideas and technologies, and too much time on the personalities and the intra-Xerox bureaucratic infighting. That might have been OK if his discussions of just why Xerox never brought so much PARC research to market were accurate, or coherent. But it seems to me that his discussions of Xerox bureaucracy and PARC personalities deconstruct themselves: the evidence he presents simply doesn't justify the conclusions that he reaches.
For example, as his book heads for a conclusion--at the top of page 391--he attacks the idea that by failing to develop into products even a quarter of the technologies produced by PARC Xerox "fumbled the future." He says that "technology foils its tamers" and that conclusions that Xerox failed "rest... on several very questionable assumptions."
But the story that Hiltzik tells is not one in which Xerox makes defensible but wrong decisions, but one in which Xerox does not even try to market what became the key technologies of Apple, Adobe, 3Com, Microsoft and others--and markets the PARC-invented laser printer only after great internal corporate resistance, and only after unnecessary multi-year delays. To squander a five- to ten-year lead because your internal bureaucratic processes cannot recognize an opportunity is, indeed, to "fumble the future."
Along his way Hiltzik makes what seem to me to be simple mistakes of fact and grave errors of logic that cast doubt on his overall reliability. Why claim that when Xerox introduced the Star computer at the beginning of the 1980s that "...no independent software industry existed at the time. (It would not emerge until the mid-1980s.)" What were Microsoft and VisiCorp and Digital Research selling then? Chopped liver? Why was IBM simultaneously developing an open-architecture PC to try to take advantage of the independent hardware and software industry? If there was no independent software industry, then why did IBM go outside its organization--to an independent software manufacturer--for both the operating system and an application suite for its first PC?
Hiltzil claims that "critics of [Xerox's] handling of PARC" "rarely acknowledge" an important burden imposed on Xerox: "the merciless business environment," and that this merciless business environment was a key factor keping Xerox from commercializing the technologies invented at PARC. He writes that:
..Japanese competitors [making copiers] appeared in force in 1975, Xerox did not introduce a low-cost machine to rival theirs until four years later.... [Xerox executives] Peter McColough and David Kearns, embroiled in the fight of their lives simply to protect the copier franchise, had scarcely any patience for... solutions... for the tough problem of technology transfer at PARC (p. 394).
This makes me scratch my head. Hiltzil writes that Xerox's organization was incompetent at product development in their core business--photocopiers: they can't respond to a competitive threat in less than four years. And Hiltzil claims that because Xerox was incompetent in its core business its managers should not be criticized for incompetence at managing the technologies developed by PARC. Can he possibly be serious?
And on the very next page there seems to be a serious, serious misconstrual of a quotation from Adobe Systems founder Chuck Geschke. Geschke says that:
Our attitude at PARC was sort of that it was a higher calling to do pure research. But here at Adobe our advanced technology group does not just stay in advanced technology. If they put together the germ of an idea and start to get it close to prototyping and even decide to turn it into a product, we encourage them to follow it all the way through to first customer shipment. The only way I know to transfer technology is with people.
Hiltzik uses this as a springboard to say that fomer PARC researchers "who have gone on to chair their own corporations... would not dare to grant their employees the same latitude" that Xerox granted them (p. 396). What he doesn't say in his concluding chapter is that Geschke and his partner John Warnock tried to follow their ideas "through to first customer shipment." They spent two years of their lives trying to get Xerox to turn their ideas--incorporated in the page description language Interpress--into a product. And after two years Warnock and Geschke had a conversation, which Warnock recounts as:
...we've spent two years of our life trying to sell this thing and [Xerox is] going to put it under a black shroud for another five." You were seeing PCs get announced, and Apples, and you kept asking yourself "When is all this great stuff going to see the light of day?" And you'd think about the Xerox infrastructure and the process it would have to go through to get into products, and it became sort of depressing (p. 374).
Does Hiltzik think that by the time we reach page 396 we will have forgotten what Hiltzik quoted on page 374? That we will fail to realize that what Geschke is offering his employees--the ability to ship products--is what Geschke desperately wanted to see happen at PARC? That Geschke would have eagerly traded some of his "latitude" at PARC for a Xerox that would actually use Interpress in some products?
If the history of corporate and research bureaucracy in this book didn't ring false, I would be saying that this is a very good book. If the history of technology in the book were better, I would say that this is a very good book--even with a history of bureaucracy that rings false.
As I said, your mileage may vary.
But my mileage was low.


Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market
Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market
von Pierre Bourdieu
  Taschenbuch

2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Missing the Mark..., 27. November 1999
This is a collection of recent op-eds, short lectures and speeches, and an essay or two by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. It is a very short collection. None of the sixteen texts included in the book takes up more than twelve pages. The book runs to 108 text pages, printed on 8" x 5" paper. It offered for sale (in paperback) by the New Press for $12.95. Since two pages would fit on one 8 1/2" x 11" sheet without reduction, the cost of xeroxing the text would be about $2.70, 21% of the price of the book--which is quite a low value for this relative-cost-of-xeroxing statistic.
As the book is a collection of sixteen texts, written (or in some cases delivered) for different audiences under different conditions, it does not make a sustained argument. Think of it, rather, as a mosaic. Some pieces of the mosaic are truly excellent. Others are rather dull and commonplace. And--as often happens with mosaics--some large and important pieces of the picture the individual bits of glass would make are missing altogether.
It is also a very political book. It is not a collection of academic lectures, or of reviews of monographs. Instead, it is a collection of short (in some cases very short) interventions into the politics of the French welfare state at the end of the twentieth century. And at this point it is necessary for me to make a disclaimer. For when Pierre Bourdieu looks for his intellectual and political enemy he sees... me.
Bourdieu praises what he calls "the left hand of the state... the so-called spending ministries which are the trace, within the state, of the social struggles of the past" and condemns the "right hand [of the state] that no longer knows... what the left hand does... [and] does not want to pay for it" (p. 2). I am the right hand of the state. I stood in the back of the room--as one of U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen's aides' aides, as the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy--and listened to Secretary Bentsen tell U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (the left hand of the U.S. state) that the potential tax-law changes which Secretary Reich had hoped to use to fund his labor-policy initiatives were reserved for other purposes.
Bourdieu condemns the "half-wise economists" "[l]ocked in the narrow, short-term economism of the IMF worldview which is also causing havoc... fail[ing], of course, to take account of the real costs, in the short and especially the long term, of the material and psychological wretchedness which is the only certain outcome of their economically legitimate Realpolitik: delinquency, alcoholism, road accidents, etc." (p. 7). I am a neoclassical economist; the chairman of my dissertation committee was the arch-neoliberal Lawrence Summers, now Deputy Secretary of the [U.S.] Treasury; I have been an advocate of NAFTA and of the Uruguay Round of GATT; a defender of the broad outlines (though not of all the details) of IMF policy toward Mexico, Brazil, and East Asia; an advocate of deficit reduction; a believer that we can properly manage "globalization" to make its benefits outweigh its costs; I have been called a "banner-waving proponent" of international capital mobility in the pages of Foreign Affairs.
Bourdieu has no respect for the "'intellectuals' of the political-administrative establishment, polymorphous polygraphs who polish their annual essays between two meetings of boards of directors, three publishers' parties, and miscellaneous television appearances" (p. 9). I have not been on TV (though I was quoted yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, and TV producers please call me at home any time of day or night at 925-283-2709) or attended publishers' parties (though I hope to someday) or served on boards of directors, but I have moved back and forth between academia, politics, and public administration--and I very much hope to continue to do so. And I very much want to be an intellectual (although I suspect that Bourdieu would see me as an 'intellectual').
Bourdieu denounces the "rationalism of the mathematical models which inspire the policy of the IMF or the World Bank... that of rational-action theories, etc." (p. 19). I have estimated econometric models and written technical arguments in economic theory for the Journal of Political Economy--although the one of which I am proudest is not a rational but an irrational-action theory ("Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," Journal of Political Economy, October 1990). But there is no doubt that when Bourdieu thinks of his intellectual and political foes, he thinks of me (or, rather, he would think of me if he knew who I was).
I look at Pierre Bourdieu, and I see... my friend. Well, perhaps not my friend but my... ally. Well, perhaps not my friend or my ally, but in any event someone who would be if he pushed his analyses just a little bit deeper, and made his intellectual position a little more coherent.
He is my hoped-for ally because there is a lot in Bourdieu's mosaic that I like already. And I find myself hopeful that as Bourdieu thinks more deeply about politics, he will find himself filling in the missing pieces of the mosaic in ways that I will agree with.
But let me start with what is excellent in the mosaic that is Acts of Resistance: Against the Tyranny of the Market. It contains splendid denunciations of the media-driven gossip-filled politics of celebrity that makes politics much less a process of collective decision-making about our common future and much more an arena for symbolic posturing in which most of us become not citizens but spectators. It contains eloquent attempts to recall France to its better nature, and adopt a humane and humanist policy toward immigrants.
I read with pleasure the attacks on Bundesbank head Hans Tietmeyer, whose overly-restrictive monetary policies have been (according to an excellent study by Johns Hopkins economist Larry Ball) a principal cause of high unemployment and slow growth in Europe. Bourdieu's reflections on how the permanent crisis of high unemployment and job insecurity is altering European culture and power relations are very fine, as are his arguments that there is no unmasterable process of "globalization" that requires the dismantling of the French welfare state.
It contains admirable defenses of the achievements of post-World War II social democracy--much of the work of the so-called "spending ministries" in modern European governments--and calls to rally to the continued defense of the social insurance or welfare state.
I have but two quarrels with Pierre Bourdieu's defense of the welfare state. The first is that he is fond of defending the achievements of the social welfare state against leftwing nihilist know-nothings by saying that they are "the trace, within the state, of the social struggles of the past." Perhaps it sounds better in French. But in English it sounds bad. Those who provide public social welfare services-- "counsellors, youth leaders... magistrates... teachers" (p. 2)--and the programs that fund them and that they carry out are not the mere trace but the substantive conquests of the social and political struggles of the past. To defund public education, public health, family services, disability and unemployment insurance, and so on is to strike at the heart of what the political and social struggles of the twentieth century won. That the main business of the late-twentieth century state is social insurance is an important fact--a fact that is minimized by referring to the spending ministries as "trace" (whether meant in the sense of trace--i.e., rare--elements or the trace outline of a now absent figure).
My second quarrel with Bourdieu's defense of the welfare state... but let me save that for later, for it belongs in the discussion of the large missing portions of Bourdieu's mosaic.
But not all of the mosaic is dazzling. There are duller pieces. Some are simply incomprehensible. I read the short "Sollers tel quel" and I get the message that Bourdieu disapproves of Balladur and Sollers--but I would have had to live in Paris for the whole first half of the 1990s for it to mean much to me.
And some pieces seem to me to be not just incomprehensible but reprehensible. When Bourdieu writes of "conservative revolutions, that in Germany in the 1930s, those of Thatcher, Reagan and others" (p. 35) I find myself thinking how Bourdieu wrote more truly than he knew when he wrote of how "at present, it is often the logic of political life, that of denunciation and slander, 'sloganization' and falsification of the adversary's thought, which extends into intellectual life" (p. 9). I loathe Ronald Reagan, but he was no Nazi. And the parallels between the return-to-an-imagined-classical-liberalism ideology of Reagan and Thatcher and the, in Jeff Herf's phrase, "reactionary modernism" of Nazi ideology is too strained and too remote for me to believe that Bourdieu did not intend the implication.
When Bourdieu writes that "the quest


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