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The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress Paperback – 1 Dec 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (1 Dec. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684862697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684862699
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Anthony Day "Los Angeles Times" The strength of "The Future and Its Enemies" lies in the author's passionate belief in the inherent virtue in creativity, innovation, and competition.

From the Publisher

Here are 5 great pieces of advance praise for this book:
"The best damn nonfiction I've read in years!" --Tom Peters

"In this bold and compelling book, Virginia Postrel uses a breathtaking range of examples, from music to software to hairstyling, to argue that progress comes not from a master plan but from courage, experiment...and even playfulness. She makes you look again at what you thought you already knew." --Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings and author of Release 2.0

"Virginia Postrel skewers the pessimists of both the left and right who see technology as the enemy and nostalgia as their friend. Bubbling with enthusiasm, and fortified with examples that run from computers to shampoo, she exposes those whose futile efforts to dictate the future pose the greatest threat to progress and security alike." --Richard Epstein, University of Chicago Law School, author of Simple Rules for a Complex World

"Virginia Postrel has a radically old-fashioned view of the future. She believes in progress. She thinks the world we are building, you and I, is a decidedly messy place, that nonetheless is turning out pretty nice. Go ahead. Imagine that." --Joel Garreau, author of Edge City: Life on the New Frontier and The Nine Nations of North America

"Showing both an acute eye for the thick textures of social life and a deep understanding of competing strands of current social theory, Virginia Postrel accomplishes here one of the social theorist's hardest tasks: devising new ways to make sense of large amounts of otherwise unconnected, or inexplicable, information about the social and political world....It is a large achievement." --David Post, Temple University Law School, co-director of the Cyberspace Law Institute --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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One of the most common rituals in American political life is the television debate between right and left. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Dec. 1998
Format: Hardcover
Books asking us to envision a "new" politics are a dime-a-dozen. Only one of them is worth reading and that is Virginia Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies. This book is a sublime expression of the idea that the laissez faire society envisioned by many "conservative" thinkers will lead to far more creativity, diversity, and innovation than could have been created by any policymaker's plan. The medium you are reading this on is proof of it. Years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the idea of a transparent online marketplace where you could read a compilation of book reviews from both experts and ordinary readers, and if you liked what they had to say, have the book sent to you just by clicking a button. No Washington sage planned out a World Wide Web with sites like Amazon and eBay. It just spontaneously evolved when entrepreneurs began pushing the limits of new technology. The result of this decentralized process is pretty spectacular. This is exactly the point, argues Postrel. The best things in life always emerge in a laissez-faire environment. Though this may seem like common sense, it runs against the prevailing political wisdom, even in this era of supposed fiscal conservatism. "The era of big government" may be over, but Washington's appetite to control your life in new ways is still very much alive. Bill Clinton thinks he can plan out a good life for you through tax incentives for good behavior and public-private initiatives. Anyone well versed in Postrel's ideas knows this is folly. But Clinton's "third way" politics is only one manifestation of a growing reactionary movement to rein in and shape the future to fit some pre-determined mold.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having been born on June 1st, my astrologic sign is Gemini. The Twins constellation suggests a dual personality. Happy and sad, strong and weak, intelligent and passionate. A proverbial incarnation of the conflicting passions in life. Granting even the smallest credence to the influence of the stars on our lives, I've never met anyone - no matter their birth sign - who wasn't a complex, ever-changing, multifaceted and occasionally conflicted personality. If duality is the criteria, perhaps we're all Geminis. Dualism is a slightly strained effort to comprehend ourselves and society. The distinct emotional and intellectual features we can identify do seem to have degrees, from nearly nothing to the dominance of one characteristic over others. Occasionally, for short periods in our lives, one of those sentiments or inclinations will dominate all others. For good reasons, we'll be timid, even fearful, about our future. Then, in a new context, swing to the extreme of strength, even bravery, in pursuing our dreams. The same occurs with intellectual talents and inclinations. This duality never concerns us at the time, simply because we are fully in the context of our own sentiments. However, when we review them in the abstract, or in the society at large, they seem different.
In the abstract, we tend to personify those temporary inclinations as incarnate drives that propel us toward either good or evil. When we consider the extreme poles of emotion and intellect, we fault the devil for our failures and praise divinity for our successes. It seems to add sense to our world to imagine some insuperable force of dualism at work than to understand all the complexities in our lives or in society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 14 April 1999
Format: Hardcover
Do you worry when you hear, "We're from the government and we're here to help you"? This wonderful book is for you. The author elegantly explains how bargaining away our freedom and allowing big government to run our lives is not only wrong, but how terribly destructive it is to society. This is an important book. The lines between GOP'ers and Dem's have blurred. Postrel brings us a new and more useful distinction: "dynamists" who understand that freedom creates the future through a chaotic process of failure and success, allowing those almost magical, random leaps of human creativity and inspiration that drive progress... and the bad guys, anti-progressive "statists" who disallow both failure and success and all hope for advancement, innovation, and human betterment. Yes the future is both promising in its potential and frightening in its uncertainty -- but who would bargain away its promise for the false security of the present? Want to climb the mountain and see what America and Americans could be? Read this book. See the future. You'll get a tingle. And be a better, freer person. I'm giving out copies to friends right and left.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 July 2005
Format: Paperback
This fascinating book by the author of Reason magazine explores the conflict between stasis and dynamism. Those who long for stasis want an engineered, regulated world. They include leftists and reactionary rightists. For them, it is all about stability and control and they are distrustful of technology.
Dynamists, on the other hand, seek a world of constant creation, competition, spontaneity and discovery. Whereas proponents of stasism believe that progress requires a blueprint, dynamists consider it as an evolutionary process. It boils down to the craving for predictability versus the enjoyment of surprise. Stasists and dynamists disagree not only about short-term policies but also about the way the world functions.
The book is a type of manifesto outlining the dynamist vision. It integrates the work of many scholars in describing how dynamist systems operate. The author explores how progress occurs in a dazzlingly wide variety of areas, from fashion to computers to movies and many others. Her arguments are quite convincing as she demonstrates how open-ended trial and error is the route to human improvement.
The Future And Its Enemies is quite an engaging read as it discusses the processes by which creativity brings about progress, prosperity, freedom and happiness. Its charms lie in the way that it points out the connections between different aspects of life, dealing with subjects as disparate as hairdressing, computer games, philosophy and bio-ethics, amongst others.
In this impressive work, Postrel has made a valuable contribution to the literature of freedom. Her refreshing angle and original insights clearly show that the organic growth of society is superior in every way to planning by arrogant political elites. Hayek and Mises would have been proud of her!
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