The Future and Its Enemies

The Future and Its Enemies

The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress

Today we have greater wealth, health, opportunity, and choice than at any time in history. Yet a chorus of intellectuals and politicians laments our current condition -- as slaves to technology, coarsened by popular culture, and insecure in the face of economic change. The future, they tell us, is dangerously out of control, and unless we precisely govern the forces of change, we risk disaster.

In The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel explodes the myths behind these claims. Using examples that range from medicine to fashion, she explores how progress truly occurs and demonstrates that human betterment depends not on conformity to one central vision but on creativity and decentralized, open-ended trial and error. She argues that these two opposing world-views -- "stasis" vs. "dynamism" -- are replacing "left" and "right" to define our cultural and political debate as we enter the next century.

In this bold exploration of how civilizations learn, Postrel heralds a fundamental shift in the way we view politics, culture, technology, and society as we face an unknown -- and invigorating -- future.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439135327 | 
  • May 2011
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE: THE ONE BEST WAY

One of the most common rituals in American political life is the television debate between right and left. Producers round up conservative and liberal representatives and set them to arguing with each other: about the federal budget, campaign finance, gun control, or whatever other issue is hot that particular day. Since the purpose is as much to entertain as to inform, and since many shows like to feature politicians, these debates tend to be predictable. They rehash familiar arguments, repeat familiar sound bites, and confirm traditional views of the political landscape.

Nowhere is the ritual more... see more
INTRODUCTION: THE SEARCH FOR TOMORROW

In May 1998, for the third time in its history, Disneyland opened a revamped Tomorrowland. It didn't just add an attraction or two. It reimagined the future. Gone is the impersonal chrome and steel of the old buildings, along with the Mission to Mars ride, the PeopleMover, and the Circle-Vision theater. In their place is a kinder, gentler tomorrow where the buildings are decorated in lush jewel tones and the gardens are filled with fruit trees and edible plants. Tomorrowland still has spaceships aplenty -- the new Rocket Rods ride is the fastest in the park -- but it hasn't shut out things that... see more

About the Author

Virginia Postrel

Virginia Postrel is a columnist for Bloomberg View and has been a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Forbes. Formerly the editor of Reason magazine, she is the author of The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies. She teaches a special seminar on glamour in the Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She lives in Los Angeles.

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