The Culture of the New Capitalism

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Yale University Press, 2007 - Social Science - 214 pages

A provocative and disturbing look at the ways new economic facts are shaping our personal and social values.

The distinguished sociologist Richard Sennett surveys major differences between earlier forms of industrial capitalism and the more global, more febrile, ever more mutable version of capitalism that is taking its place. He shows how these changes affect everyday life--how the work ethic is changing; how new beliefs about merit and talent displace old values of craftsmanship and achievement; how what Sennett calls "the specter of uselessness" haunts professionals as well as manual workers; how the boundary between consumption and politics is dissolving.

In recent years, reformers of both private and public institutions have preached that flexible, global corporations provide a model of freedom for individuals, unlike the experience of fixed and static bureaucracies Max Weber once called an "iron cage." Sennett argues that, in banishing old ills, the new-economy model has created new social and emotional traumas. Only a certain kind of human being can prosper in unstable, fragmentary institutions: the culture of the new capitalism demands an ideal self oriented to the short term, focused on potential ability rather than accomplishment, willing to discount or abandon past experience. In a concluding section, Sennett examines a more durable form of self hood, and what practical initiatives could counter the pernicious effects of "reform."


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Page 200 - Robert H. Wiebe, The search for order (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), chaps. 2, 7; Samuel P. Hays, The response to industrialism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), chap. 3; Richard L. McCormick, "The party period and public policy," Journal of American History, 66 (September 1979), pp.
Page 203 - Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), esp. chap. 3; also Kenneth D. Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, 4th ed.
Page 200 - George Soros, The Crisis of Global Capitalism [Open Society Endangered] (London: Little, Brown and Co. UK. 1998). While Mr. Soros is interested in defending what, following Karl Popper, he calls an "open society," his analysis of the conflict of global capitalism with democracy since the 1970s (esp.
Page 9 - A stereotype holds that Americans are aggressive competitors in business. Beneath this stereotype lies a different, more passive mentality. Americans of the middling sort I've interviewed in the past decade have tended to accept structural change with resignation, as though the loss of security at work and in schools run like businesses are inevitable: you can do little about such basic shifts, even if they hurt you.
Page 7 - By the iggos, thanks to microprocessing advances in electronics, the old dream/nightmare of automation began to become a reality in both manual and bureaucratic labor: at last it would be cheaper to invest in machines than to pay people to work.

About the author (2007)

Richard Sennett teaches sociology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the London School of Economics. His recent publications include The Corrosion of Character and Respect in a World of Inequality.

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