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No Future for You

No Future for You: Salvos fromThe Baffler

JOHN SUMMERS
CHRIS LEHMANN
THOMAS FRANK
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf8n4
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  • Book Info
    No Future for You
    Book Description:

    There's never been a better time to be outside the consensus -- and if you don't believe it, then peer into these genre-defining essays from The Baffler, the magazine that's been blunting the cutting edge of American culture and politics for a quarter of a century. Here's Thomas Frank on the upward-falling cult of expertise in Washington, D.C., where belonging means getting the major events of our era wrong. Here's Rick Perlstein on direct mail scams, multilevel marketing, and the roots of right-wing lying. Here's John Summers on the illiberal uses of innovation in liberal Cambridge, Massachusetts. And here's David Graeber sensing our disappointment in new technology. (We expected teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, and immortality drugs. We got LinkedIn, which, as Ann Friedman writes here, is an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.) Packed with hilarious, scabrous, up to-the-minute criticism of the American comedy,No Future for Youdebunks "positive thinking" bromides and business idols. Susan Faludi debunks Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg's phony feminist handbook, Lean In. Evgeny Morozov wrestles "open source" and "Web 2.0" and other pseudorevolutionary meme-making down to the ground. Chris Lehmann writes the obituary of the Washington Post, Barbara Ehrenreich goes searching for the ungood God in Ridley Scott's filmPrometheus, Heather Havrilesky readsFifty Shades of Grey, and Jim Newell investigates the strange and typical case of Adam Wheeler, the student fraud who fooled Harvard and, unlike the real culprits, went to jail.No Future for Youoffers the counternarrative you've been missing, proof that dissent is alive and well in America. Please be warned, however. The writing that follows is polemical in nature. It may seek to persuade you of something.Copublished withThe Baffler.ContributorsChris Bray, Mark Dancey, Barbara Ehrenreich, Susan Faludi, Thomas Frank, Ann Friedman, James Griffioen, David Graeber, A. S. Hamrah, Heather Havrilesky, Chris Lehmann, Rhonda Lieberman, Anne Elizabeth Moore, Evgeny Morozov, Jim Newell, Rick Perlstein, John Summers, Maureen Tkacik

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32589-9
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    JOHN SUMMERS, CHRIS LEHMANN and THOMAS FRANK

    This book of salvos fromThe Bafflermagazine comes with a smile and a simple message:There’s no future for you.

    We mean this with only a slight dash of metaphor, since our goal is to enlighten, not depress. The forces presiding over our country’s disintegration have already robbed a generation of jobs and money, ruined our private aspirations, and sunk collective confidence, on which, we are often told, depends the vibrancy of the market itself.

    All too true, alas and uh-oh.

    This book, though, offers a different perspective, one that also bears a gleam of hope. Our current economic...

  4. PART ONE: THE FUTURE, RECYCLED

    • Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an age of folly
      (pp. 9-22)
      THOMAS FRANK

      In the short hapless years of the present millennium, we have looked on as three great bubbles of consensus vanity have in-flated and burst, each with consequences more dire than the last.

      First there was the “New Economy,” a millennial fever dream predicated on the twin ideas of a people’s stock market and an eternal silicon prosperity; it collapsed eventually under the weight of its own fatuousness.

      Second was the war in Iraq, an endeavor whose launch depended for its success on the turpitude of virtually every class of elite in Washington, particularly the tough-minded men of the media; an...

    • The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism
      (pp. 23-42)
      RICK PERLSTEIN

      Mitt Romney is a liar. Of course, in some sense, all politicians, even all human beings, are liars.Romney’s lying went so over-the-top extravagant by the summer of 2012, though, that theNew York Timeseditorial board did something probably unprecedented in their polite gray precincts: they used the L-word itself. “Mr. Romney’s entire campaign rests on a foundation of short, utterly false sound bites,” they editorialized. He repeats them “so often that millions of Americans believe them to be the truth.” “It is hard to challenge these lies with a well-reasoned-but-overlong speech,” they concluded; and how. Romney’s lying, in fact,...

    • The People’s Republic of Zuckerstan
      (pp. 43-74)
      JOHN SUMMERS

      Ever since Mark Zuckerberg reappeared in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2011 and announced that this old city had growth potential after all, the region’s public officials have been eagerly positioning themselves to ride a wave of digital startup commerce.

      The state’s Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, has been ardently lobbying corporate players in biotech to fall in with the Facebook titan and exploit the region’s educated workforce. Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo sent an open letter to Zuckerberg begging him to follow through on his comment and locate an office here. “A lot has changed in Massachusetts in the eight years...

    • Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit
      (pp. 75-99)
      DAVID GRAEBER

      Asecret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like....

    • PHOTO ESSAY: Feral Houses
      (pp. 100-106)
      JAMES GRIFFIOEN

      Ilive in the city of Detroit among tens of thousands of vacant and abandoned homes. These houses—most of them burned and collapsing—are a constant reminder that this city, where two million people once lived, is now home to much less than one million. Some estimate that there are as many as seventy thousand vacant houses in Detroit, along with twenty-five thousand acres of prairie where homes and entire neighborhoods once stood.

      As the city disappears, nature flourishes. I take my bird dog pheasant “hunting” on the empty street grid of an old Slovakian neighborhood. I’ve seen a...

  5. PART TWO: THE ARTS OF REGRESSION

    • Dead End on Shakin’ Street
      (pp. 109-122)
      THOMAS FRANK

      My hometown is vibrant. Its status as such is certi-fied, official, stamped on both sides.

      There was a time, though, when it wasn’t, when my friends and I would laugh at Kansas City’s blandness: its harmless theater productions, its pretentious suburbs, its private country clubs, its eternal taste for classic rock. We called it “Cupcake Land,” after a favorite Richard Rhodes essay from the eighties. The city knew nothing of the bold ideas of our robust generation, we thought: it had virtually no music subculture; it was deaf to irony; hell, it actually tried to drive out of business the...

    • Hoard d’ Oeuvres: Art of the 1 percent
      (pp. 123-140)
      RHONDA LIEBERMAN

      Art collecting is the most esteemed form of shopping in our culture today.

      Thorstein Veblen saw conspicuous consumers as throwbacks—creatures ruled by primitive drives of predation and emulation. Yet the fashion-victimized accumulators of pelf with the historical equivalents of a big house and a Jaguar have always been pillars of society. In the age of landed gentry and indentured servants, Veblen notes, “vulgarly productive occupations” were stigmatized with the “marks of poverty and subjection,” while predatory exploits were considered “honorific,” a sign of “pecuniary strength.”

      Our neo-Gilded Age, like Veblen’s merely Gilded one, is marked by a predatory culture...

    • A Cottage for Sale: The high price of sentimentality
      (pp. 141-160)
      A. S. HAMRAH

      The Christmas Cottage,a biopic about the artist Thomas Kinkade, famous for the quaint-scary-ugly paintings he sells in shopping malls, is a cinematic portrait of the multimillionaire artist as a young man. Kinkade coproduced the movie, which went straight to DVD when it came out in 2008. In a pivotal scene, the budding “Painter of Light,” home from college, gathers with his mother and younger brother on Christmas morning.

      It’s the mid-seventies in Placerville, California, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The Kinkades are a poor family living in a rundown house. Kinkade’s mother, divorced from...

    • Fifty Shades of Late Capitalism
      (pp. 161-170)
      HEATHER HAVRILESKY

      While we are still recovering from the trauma that finance capital has inflicted on our public world, a late-capitalist fairy tale manages the pain in the more private and intimate reaches of the sexual daydream. In one version of the story, a wide-eyed mermaid cleverly disguises her essential self in order to win the heart of a prince (The Little Mermaid). In another, a hooker with a heart of gold navigates her way to a happy ending by offering some happy endings of her own(Pretty Woman). Or there’s the sassy secretary who shakes her moneymaker all the way to...

    • Adam Wheeler Went to Harvard
      (pp. 171-184)
      JIM NEWELL

      On December 23, 2011, the dons of Harvard University finally got to see Adam Wheeler sentenced to a year in prison. Wheeler, a twenty-five-year-old whom they admitted in 2007 on the strength of an academic record he’d fabricated out of thin air, had been caught again—and this was not something a young gentleman does to America’s most highly self-regarded institution of advanced credentialing.

      A few months earlier, Wheeler had submitted a résumé to U.S. Green Data Inc., on which he said he had attended Harvard. Technically, this was true; he’d been one year short of graduating when someone at...

    • The Missionary Position
      (pp. 185-196)
      BARBARA EHRENREICH

      Most critics have regarded Ridley Scott’sPrometheusin much the same way that Arthur Miller probably thought of Marilyn Monroe—gorgeous, but intellectually way out of her depth. No one denies the film’s visual glory, which begins the moment a giant chalk-white alien strides out into the Icelandic wasteland, guzzles some gunk from a can, and splits open to release thousands of wriggling worm-like DNA strands into a waterfall. But when it comes to metaphysical coherence, the critical consensus is thatPrometheushas nothing to offer. “There are no revelations,”the New York Timesopines, “only what are called, in...

  6. PART THREE: POSITIVE THINKING

    • Facebook Feminism, Like It or Not
      (pp. 199-226)
      SUSAN FALUDI

      The congregation swooned as she bounded on stage, the prophet sealskin sleek in her black skinny ankle pants and black ballet flats, a lavalier microphone clipped to the V-neck of her black button-down sweater. “All right!! Let’s go!!” she exclaimed, throwing out her arms and pacing the platform before inspirational graphics of glossy young businesswomen in managerial action poses. “Super excited to have all of you here!!”

      “Whoo!!” the young women in the audience replied. The camera, which was livestreaming the event in the Menlo Park, California, auditorium to college campuses worldwide, panned the rows of wellheeled Stanford University econ...

    • All LinkedIn with Nowhere to Go
      (pp. 227-240)
      ANN FRIEDMAN

      In a jobs economy that has become something of a grim joke, nothing seems quite so bleak as the digital job seeker’s all-but-obligatory LinkedIn account. In the decade since the site launched publicly with a mission “to connect the world’s profession als to make them more productive and successful,” the glorified résumé-distribution service has become an essential stop for the pro fessionally dissatisfied masses. The networking site burrows its way into users’ inboxes with updates spinning the gossamer dream of successful and frictionless advancement up the career ladder. Just add one crucial contact who’s only a few degrees removed from...

    • The Meme Hustler: Tim O’Reilly’s crazy talk
      (pp. 241-288)
      EVGENY MOROZOV

      While the brightest minds of Silicon Valley are “disrupting” whatever industry is too crippled to fend off their advances, something odd is happening to our language. Old, trusted words no longer mean what they used to mean; often, they don’t mean anything at all. Our language, much like everything these days, has been hacked. Fuzzy, contentious, and complex ideas have been stripped of their subversive connotations and replaced by cleaner, shinier, and emptier alternatives; long-running debates about politics, rights, and freedoms have been recast in the seemingly natural language of economics, innovation, and efficiency. Complexity, as it turns out, is...

  7. PART FOUR: QUIET ROOMS, DEAD ZONES

    • Follow the Money: The Washington Post’s pageant of folly
      (pp. 291-304)
      CHRIS LEHMANN

      Amid the run-up to the general election of 2012, an awkward fact that didn’t have any relevance to either of the major party’s stratagems nonetheless came to light. As President Obama began aggressively touting the “Buffett Rule” to introduce marginal increases in capital gains taxes, and as advisers such as economic policy czar Gene Sperling launched yet another decorative bid to step up investment in the manufacturing economy, data from the IRS showed that the Obama years have achieved almost nothing to remedy the yawning inequalities in the economy. The top 1 percent of income earners have taken in...

    • Omniscient Gentlemen of The Atlantic
      (pp. 305-322)
      MAUREEN TKACIK

      Not long beforeThe Atlantic’s parent company announced its swing into a profit-making business model despite operating in the most moribund corner of a publishing industry, I sat in a glass-paneled press room next to a small auditorium on the second floor of the Washington Newseum and took in the incipient profitability. All the unctuous little scabs who believe the future of words lies in rearranging them online would soon (inter alia) barge into the office ofHarper’spublisher Rick MacArthur to trumpet their e-vindication. But they evidently forgot to wonder how much ofThe Atlantic’sprofitability owes to operating...

    • The Vertically Integrated Rape Joke: The triumph of Vice
      (pp. 323-338)
      ANNE ELIZABETH MOORE

      Thirteen-year-old Milly Dowler, a perky schoolgirl from Surrey, England, never intended to be the undoing of mighty News Corp. The global media conglomerate—famously helmed by expat Australian Rupert Murdoch—had, in Dowler’s day, owned or held major shares in more than 250 separate media companies worldwide, including newspapers, film studios, radio stations, book publishers, and cable and television networks. But one spring afternoon in 2002, the tawny-haired tween set off a sequence of events that would end Murdoch’s beloved company. (Spoiler alert: He gets his vengeance.)

      That Thursday, Dowler, in her school’s required mini-and-tie uniform, left campus with a...

    • Party of None: Barack Obama’s annoying journey to the center of belonging
      (pp. 339-365)
      CHRIS BRAY

      Barack Obama’s personal journey begins, and it is instantly made meaningless.

      Sometime in the first half of 1966, Obama’s stepfather was mysteriously forced to return to Indonesia from grad school in Hawaii. Lolo Soetoro went home to a long episode of political violence, the outlines of which are not substantially in dispute. Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, had tried to create political stability by balancing three competing political forces in the life of a new country: the army, the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), and Islam. On the night of September 30, 1965, PKI members and leftist military officers attempted a clumsy...

    • GRAPHIC ART: GTMO National Monument
      (pp. 366-368)
      MARK DANCEY
  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 369-369)
  9. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 370-371)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 372-378)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-380)