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Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything
 
 

Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything [Kindle Edition]

F.S. Michaels
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

"Michaels offers a smart and realistic guide to first recognizing the monoculture and the challenges of transcending its limitations." --The Atlantic

"A singularly brilliant and accessible analysis of some of the fundamental assumptions and driving principles of our time." --Comment Magazine

"A thin, enrapturing gem. It's accessible, sensible - exactly the sort of book that should have (and still could and should!) take off and create a tiny little dent in books." --Kenyon Review

"A single lucid narrative that's bound to first make you somewhat uncomfortable and insecure, then give you the kind of pause from which you can step back and move forward with more autonomy, authenticity and mindfulness than ever." --Maria Popova, Brainpickings.org

"[Michaels] writes in clear, energetic prose that's thoughtful, engaging and unforced. She defines and analyzes without judgment or insistence...a breath of fresh air."
--NPR

Product Description

Winner of the 2011 NCTE George Orwell Award for outstanding contributions to the analysis of public discourse.

One of The Atlantic's "Best Psychology Books of 2011."

As human beings, we’ve always told stories: stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we’re going. Now imagine that one of those stories is taking over the others, narrowing our diversity and creating a monoculture. Because of the rise of the economic story, six areas of your world — your work, your relationships with others and the environment, your community, your physical and spiritual health, your education, and your creativity — are changing, or have already changed, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And because how you think shapes how you act, the monoculture isn’t just changing your mind — it’s changing your life.

In Monoculture, F.S. Michaels draws on extensive research and makes surprising connections among disciplines to take a big-picture look at how one story is changing everything: corporations, corporate social responsibility, and business ethics; families, communities, social services, and philanthropy; nature and biodiversity; government, the public and private sectors, prisons, and public libraries; health care and medicine; religion, Christianity and churches; education, universities, and science; arts, culture, artists, and museums.

Her research and writing have been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Killam Trusts, and regional and municipal arts councils. Michaels has an MBA, and lives and writes in British Columbia.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 278 KB
  • Print Length: 203 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0986853801
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Clover Press (25 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Y1MU2C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #176,949 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I was bought this as a surprise birthday gift - 6 months late!. It arrived at the same time as another book I was waiting for but I opened Monoculture first and read it in just two sittings. It was gripping and, although not revealing much terribly new, pulled things together that had been hovering in the back of my mind for years without being articulated.

The final chapter 'Finding Another Way' where Michaels refers to Vaclav Havel's experiences in the former Czechoslovakia of building a parallel way rang particularly true. Of alternative values and behaviours: "They do not represent a sure thing: you participate in them because you are compelled to, not because what you're part of stands a good chance of becoming a mass movement". This rang true for me. I have been vegetarian for 20 years and people find this, in some strange way, threatening. They assume that I am doing it to make everyone else do it or to save all the animals or for my health or because I don't like meat or any range of reasons. I actually do it for no reason, seeking no particular end but merely because I am compelled to - which doesn't fit with the economic story we live by. Why do something that is awkward and denies pleasure without the intention of gaining benefit just because you feel it might be right? I appear to have been building my own parallel structure without realising it and the book articulates that well for me.

To say the book is a polemic is reasonable. There are places where I wince at the over simplification and generalisations. With these weaknesses I would have given it 4 stars but the fact that it is succinct gains it a bonus star. If there is one sign of the market in action it is the fact that almost every book I pick up appears to contain 100 pages too many.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Stimulating read and cause for reflection. As we go about our daily lives in a capitalistic driven world we lose our connection to humanity and charity. Knowledge for freedom's sake is controlled by the big market creating a mono culture that pervades every corner of our lives. Michael reflects on the pervasive problem with making public goods private. We have the right to choose what type of services and products we want within our lives, although as the knowledgable consumer we are bombarded with advertisements, the government and media which shape our preferences to sometimes believe we need things we do not.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read! 26 May 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
The main idea in this book is that there is a loss of value diversity in different areas of life, and that changes how we live. The book has a wide application to a wide variety of readers because it looks at changing trends in work, education, communities, creativity and the art, spirituality, healthcare and government. I found the book very approachable, well-written, and accessible. Lots of good examples, good synthesis of complex ideas, and I ended up doing lots of "hmmm, that's interesting." I was inspired by the parallel lives section. Overall, the book reads well and really teaches a lot to the reader - and the length is just right, not too long and not too short.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and well articulated argument 2 Oct 2013
By Mr. T
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well written, articulate assessment of the hegemony of a particular world view. It is interesting and readable, I thought that the only weakness in the book were the rather ineffective alternatives that were suggested as challenges or alternatives. I would recommend it.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended 1 Jun 2011
By 88ways - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "Monoculture," FS Michaels methodically lays out how our societal worldview has been slowly overtaken by a single story - the story of economics. From education and the arts to how we eat, think, and play, Michaels asserts that we have been steeped in a single point of view where value is reduced to what can be sold and worth is determined by financial expediency. Michael's writing is clear and sharp as she brings the impact of this pervasive global philosophy down to the personal level, showing how it affects our lives in the everyday.

Michaels spent years researching this book and it shows. This book is packed full of observations and opinions from a wide range of economists, artists, philosophers and scholars, and Michaels introduces each new section of the book with a concise historical context outlining how things once were, how they developed, and how we arrived where we are. Michaels presents a clear argument without resorting to soapboxing, emotional appeals, or badgering. There is no guilt trip here, just a careful deconstruction of philosophical assumptions that too often go unquestioned. And while it is intellectually satisfying, "Monoculture" is no overbearing academic tome. Michaels' writing is engaging and accessible for readers with a wide range of ability and interest. This is not a pounded pulpit, but a door opening into a discussion that we as a society badly need to have.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monoculture and narrative for complete idiots - I like it! 26 Aug 2011
By Buddha Baby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is one of my personal favorites of the books I have read in the last few years, for several reasons. First of all, it is one of those books that helps you to step back and take a good look at your own beliefs and narratives about how the world works and why, jolting you out of your usual thinking and presenting another perspective. Some of these ideas hit home - ideas I was vaguely aware of but unable to articulate, while others are totally new.
The author posits that the market economy is what basically drives every area of our lives. Of course this makes sense; if we can't put food on the table, we won't be around to consider anything else - that is about survival so easily becomes our main narrative. However, this narrative has gone way beyond survival and need into our crazy consumer driven lives. The breadth of this book is another reason for the five stars - the author addresses how this narrative effects most areas of our lives including the music we listen to, the art we come to value, obviously the clothes we wear, our medical care, our religion, our relationships with family members and friends, etc. - much more! I think many of us are aware of these things without realizing the extent to which we have lost choice in many of these areas. For example, it is common knowledge what has happened to the music industry with monopolies such as Sony determining what we listen to, as well as other media corporations determining which version of the news we are offered. I have always found it interesting to watch religions shape themselves in such a way as to receive government aid through non-profit status also. These things and many more are addressed in this book.
Another reason for the five stars: yes there are ideas for solutions presented. We already know many of them and this reading is helping me to stick to my own values more often. For example, I'm putting more effort into supporting local businesses, co-ops, local musicians and artists, etc. The author talks about a parallel narrative, along the lines of "Being the change" we want to see in the world. It is easy when addressing some of these topics to feel overwhelmed and hopeless - not so with this book - it IS helping me to be that change, as small as it may be!

July 9, 2012 - Edited to change to five stars. I had mistakenly clicked on four starts, altho stating five in the body of this review.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately unconvincing 18 Feb 2013
By Stijn Debrouwere - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I feel like I'm the exact target audience for this sort of essay. I'm liberal, I'm scared of the extent to which economic considerations have come to dominate our thoughts and I'm sad that the world isn't different than it is. But the entire book turns out to be a non sequitur: "gee, this economic story, isn't it awful?" repeated all throughout the book based on examples that aren't really very convincing.

Yes, non-profits shouldn't try to be like for-profits, but is efficiency such a bad thing when you're trying to help people?

Too many people have come to see education as purely an economic investment that'll pay off through future earnings, but equally as many people make frivolous study choices without thinking about what it costs society to let them spend all that time in college.

Societies never flourish when entrepreneurs and artists are constant slaves to the market, if they need to ask "Will this sell?" of anything they do. But remove that constraint and they and up losing a very valuable yardstick, something to keep them focused and on track.

What I expected was a book that was a little bit more Tocquevillian in trying to figure out exactly where the economic story breaks down, and where it actually works really well. I appreciate that Michaels, to some extent, just wants to show us a different way of thinking about things, to show us that there *are* different ways of thinking about things, and then leaves it up to us to actually decide on the mix of ideas we think is right. But if you already have that wider picture and were hoping that this book would give you some answers as to when those different ways of thinking actually make sense and should receive more attention... this essay doesn't have much meat to it.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book lives up to its ambitious title 5 Sep 2011
By R. S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's not often that a book about big ideas so rapidly changes my understanding of the world, but Monoculture maps a general dis-ease I've had for a long time about all sorts of different things (but couldn't quite articulate). Now I can't NOT think about my life from the lens of the economic story. It becomes self-evident.

Monoculture does something important by helping us identify the economic story that drives our era. This story affects all of us in profound ways (and will continue to do so even more, judging from the monetization of our online personas, the substitution of corporate largesse for shrinking public funds, the global spread of GMO crops, increasing pharmaceutical influence in government, and on and on.) We need to know what we are immersed in if we want to choose a different life.

The last part of the book looks at parallel structures - ways that people manage to move out from under the monoculture. I really appreciate F. S. Michaels' clarity regarding the risks one takes choosing to dis-engage from the economic story. However, if I have one disappointment with this book, it's that I felt like I needed much more of this, more examples of people finding their own way with audacity and grit and real-life results. I craved more details, more strategies for overcoming the monoculture. I hope the author writes another book just about this.

Overall, I think Monoculture does a tremendous job of taking some wide-ranging and complex ideas and distilling them in a way that gets to their essence. The writing is clear and jargon-free without oversimplifying things. It is clear that this book is the result of hard thinking, lots of research, and tight editing. Every sentence pulls its weight; there is no extra fat anywhere. F. S. Michaels makes good on supporting the ambitious claim made in the title - not an easy thing to do!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perspective Shifter 1 Nov 2012
By Mira - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found this book by accident while looking for something else, as I am interested in social behaviour, as soon as I read the title decided to get a sample sent to my IPad. I read the sample that night and could not put it down so had to get the full version.

I consider myself a well read person, after all I have my own small private library of over 1000 books that I have read in relation to human behaviour, quantum physics and other perception challenging topics. This book made me rethink my perception of why the world is in its current state and how we got here. Since I read the book a few days ago I have been observing people's behaviour and my own from a different perspective and have realize that in the general sense the author is right. It is good to know the `whys' and `hows' of a situation as it gives us the chance to make better informed decisions, I might not have changed my behaviour just yet (that will spontaneously happen, I hope, as I change my thinking overtime my behaviour will eventually follow) but I am certainly feeling more self-empowered just by understanding it better.
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Popular Highlights

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&quote;
Your personal mythology is, rather, the vibrant infrastructure that informs your life, whether or not you are aware of it. Consciously and unconsciously, you live by your mythology.”1 &quote;
Highlighted by 48 Kindle users
&quote;
A good story, well told, makes you realize you were yearning for something you had no name for, something you didn’t even know you wanted. &quote;
Highlighted by 45 Kindle users
&quote;
Though the monoculture naturally embodies issues surrounding money, the economic story represents a much more nuanced and insidious tapestry of beliefs and assumptions that fall into three categories: who you are as a human being, what the world is like, and how you and that world interact. &quote;
Highlighted by 37 Kindle users

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