Monday, November 06, 2006

Book Log: The Future and Its Enemies, by Virginia Postrel

What are the main dividing lines between people in our political landscape? To what major groups or divisions do we assign political actors and ideas? In 2006 America, the most obvious answers might be Liberal and Conservative, Left and Right, Democrat and Republican (and a few smaller parties). But in The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel makes an empasioned case that the most fundamental divide is between what she calls "stasists" and "dynamists".

Ms. Postrel argues that most contemporary U.S. political discourse is stasist. It see the current state of the country almost exclusively in terms of the problems it has, and seeks to find solutions. The defining characteristic of stasism is the desire for control. Stasists feel that things are out of control, and someone must do something to bring order.

[Stasists] will see contemporary life as a problem demanding immediate action by the powerful and wise. This relentlessly hostile view of how we live, and how we may come to live, is distorted and dangerous. It overvalues the tastes of an articulate elite, compares the real world of trade-offs to fantasies of utopia, omits important details and connections, and confuses and devalues the creative minds on whom our future depends. And it encourages the coercive use of political power to wipe out choice, forbid experimentation, short-circuit feedback, and trammel progress (pg. xviii).
I would like to add some actual commentary on the book, but that will have to wait.

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