In the early twentieth century, the concept of the Pacific Rim and an orientalist fascination with Asian music and culture dominated the popular imagination of white Californians, influencing their interactions with the Asian Other. Several decades later, as tensions rose between the Los Angeles Police Department and the African American community, the once-thriving jazz and blues nightclub scene of 1940s Central Avenue became a primary target for law enforcement's anti-vice crusade. The reactionary nature of the musical scores for Hollywood's noir films of the World War II and postwar eras negotiated the perceived demise of white female sexuality in the face of black culture and urban corruption. Mina Yang also considers Mexican Americans' conflicted assimilation into the white American mainstream from the early 1900s through the 1970s, as well as contemporary Korean Americans' struggles to express their cultural and national identities through hip-hop, a genre usually associated with African Americans.
According to Yang, there has never been a straightforward definition of "Californian." This most populous and most affluent state in the Union has been setting musical and cultural trends for decades, and Yang's study thoughtfully illuminates the multiculutral nature of its musics.
These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much-heralded scholar who studies the riddles of everyday life—from cheating and crime to sports and child-rearing—and whose conclusions turn conventional wisdom on its head.
Freakonomics is a groundbreaking collaboration between Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning author and journalist. They usually begin with a mountain of data and a simple question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: Freakonomics.
Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they explore the hidden side of . . . well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.
What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.
Bonus material added to the revised and expanded 2006 editionThe original New York Times Magazine article about Steven D. Levitt by Stephen J. Dubner, which led to the creation of this book.Seven “Freakonomics” columns written for the New York Times Magazine, published between August 2005 and April 2006.Selected entries from the Freakonomics blog, posted between April 2005 and May 2006 at http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/.