"Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution, is the first thing I read every morning. And his brilliant new book, The Complacent Class, has been on my nightstand after I devoured it in one sitting. I am at round-the-clock Cowen saturation right now."--Malcolm Gladwell
Since Alexis de Tocqueville, restlessness has been accepted as a signature American trait. Our willingness to move, take risks, and adapt to change have produced a dynamic economy and a tradition of innovation from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs.
The problem, according to legendary blogger, economist and best selling author Tyler Cowen, is that Americans today have broken from this tradition—we’re working harder than ever to avoid change. We're moving residences less, marrying people more like ourselves and choosing our music and our mates based on algorithms that wall us off from anything that might be too new or too different. Match.com matches us in love. Spotify and Pandora match us in music. Facebook matches us to just about everything else.
Of course, this “matching culture” brings tremendous positives: music we like, partners who make us happy, neighbors who want the same things. We’re more comfortable. But, according to Cowen, there are significant collateral downsides attending this comfort, among them heightened inequality and segregation and decreased incentives to innovate and create.
The Complacent Class argues that this cannot go on forever. We are postponing change, due to our near-sightedness and extreme desire for comfort, but ultimately this will make change, when it comes, harder. The forces unleashed by the Great Stagnation will eventually lead to a major fiscal and budgetary crisis: impossibly expensive rentals for our most attractive cities, worsening of residential segregation, and a decline in our work ethic. The only way to avoid this difficult future is for Americans to force themselves out of their comfortable slumber—to embrace their restless tradition again.
Bountiful resources, a mass market, and the industrial revolution gave entrepreneurs broad scope. In Europe, the state and the church kept private organizations small and required consideration of the public good. In America, the courts and business-steeped legislators removed regulatory constraints over the century, centralizing industry and privatizing the railroads. Despite resistance, the corporate form became the model for the next century. Bureaucratic structure spread to government and the nonprofits. Writing in the tradition of Max Weber, Perrow concludes that the driving force of our history is not technology, politics, or culture, but large, bureaucratic organizations.
Perrow, the author of award-winning books on organizations, employs his witty, trenchant, and graceful style here to maximum effect. Colorful vignettes abound: today's headlines echo past battles for unchecked organizational freedom; socially responsible alternatives that were tried are explored along with the historical contingencies that sent us down one road rather than another. No other book takes the role of organizations in America's development as seriously. The resultant insights presage a new historical genre.
This book investigates how artistic ideas are translated into successful commercial production, and how economic growth impacts artistic invention. It examines cases of successful innovation in the creative industries ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the present. The book suggests a framework where social players move in diverse worlds of value, which leads to a stream of controversies and manias that result in the establishment of new joy products. Studies include the effect of linear perspective, as pioneered by Filippo Brunelleschi, the discovery of taste as an argument for consumption, the serial production of Pop Art and the self-commercialization of contemporary works by artists like Takashi Murakami .
This theoretical and empirical study brings together the fields of cultural economics, economic sociology, management studies and cultural history. In doing so, it offers a fascinating study of how creativity has shaped and fuelled commerce.
The author shows how the corporation started as a quasi-public device used by governments to create and administer public services like turnpikes and canals and then how it germinated within a system of stock markets, brokerage houses, and investment banks into a mechanism for the organization of railroads. Finally, and most particularly, he analyzes its flowering into the realm of manufacturing, when at the turn of this century, many of the same giants that still dominate the American economic landscape were created. Thus, the corporation altered manufacturing entities so that they were each owned by many people instead of by single individuals as had previously been the case.