Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business Through Literature and Film Paperback – 6 Aug 2014
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Although his prior books establish Dr. Younkins as a scholarly and prolific philosopher of liberty, Exploring Capitalist Fiction focuses not on the philosophy of business but on the complex lives of fictional men who implement it. Its twenty-five plot summaries illustrate, unsurprisingly, that businessmen are neither more nor less moral or confused than the rest of us, from the crony-capitalist railroaders in Norris's The Octopus, Cahan's wealthy but unhappy David Levinsky, and Lewis's terrified conformist Babbitt to more heroic, less conflicted figures like Hawley's Cash McCall, Kesey's Stamper family, and King Vidor's Steve Dangos. Dr. Younkins occasionally offers a valuable philosophical or economic insight, but the book is principally a welcome, fascinating, even-handed study of business and capitalism in literature.--John Egger, Towson University
I am a testament to the validity of the theme of this book, which is that fiction can be a powerful tool for business education. A novel, Atlas Shrugged, changed my life and was far more important to me in successfully leading a business than any nonfiction book or college course.--John Allison, President and CEO, Cato Institute
Most people today spend at least a third of their weekday lives in the business world. Some view that world as a second family. Younkins' superb summaries and analyses of twenty-five works of capitalist fiction create the feel of what it is like to work in the modern institution known as business. In all of these fictional cases there are many complex personal, ethical, and psychological interactions: government vs. business, employer vs. employee, supplier vs. client, and, of course, fellow entrepreneur/employee vs. fellow entrepreneur/employee. Ethical issues are the star. Indeed, the book could easily be used as a text in business ethics courses.--Jerry Kirkpatrick, California State Polytechnic University
Ed Younkins s newest book will be indispensable to anyone either teaching or studying the portrayal of business in American fiction, plays, and films over the past century and a quarter. His admirably evenhanded summaries of twenty-five important works in this tradition, and his exhaustive lists of other titles not discussed at length, will be useful also to the general reader who simply wants to discover more about how commercial enterprise has been depicted in novels, plays, and movies over the past hundred years or so.--Jeff Riggenbach, Author of In Praise of Decadence, and Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism"
Lawyer and statesman St. Thomas More argued that the study of literature provides greater moral understanding than does the study of law. Edward Younkins strengthens that argument through his perceptive and insightful examination of both pro- and anti-business fiction and film.--Samuel Bostaph, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Dallas
Once more Ed Younkins has come up with an insightful discussion of an important topic. Professor Younkins writes in a way that is intelligible to the general audience while retaining the rigor of thought expected of an academic. Exploring Capitalist Fiction is fun to read and will change the way you look at a film, read a book or watch a play.--Gary Wolfram, Hillsdale College
Exploring Capitalist Fiction is one of those books I have needed for a long time, but just didn't know it. In this volume, Younkins assembles a remarkable collection of insights about how business is portrayed in literature and film. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the book is Younkins's ability to balance historical viewpoints with contemporary and whimsical perspectives with serious ones, across both film and print. And he does so while striking a balance between supportive and critical outlooks on business and capitalism that I would not have thought possible. This is an excellent book.--Marshall Schminke, University of Central Florida
Perhaps no subject has been so much discussed in literature and film yet so under-analyzed and examined as business. This volume is a virtual pioneer in remedying this situation. Drawing from novels, plays, and films, and ranging over a variety of attitudes towards business, Younkins selects works of depth and importance for anyone interested in exploring the treatment of business in fiction and thereby coming to appreciate its cultural and moral significance. Especially refreshing is Younkins's selection process which avoids the temptation to concentrate on contemporary works. Instead we see selections from a number of different eras with attention paid to lesser known works as well as some obvious favorites. I have little doubt that this book will become a standard reference work for those interested in the treatment of business through creative fiction.--Douglas Den Uyl, Vice President of Educational Programs, Liberty Fund
Professor Younkins makes another contribution to the literature of freedom, this time by showing us what pro-capitalist fiction--and anti-capitalist, too--can teach us about business and its enemies.--Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., Chairman and CEO, Ludwig von Mises Institute
Why do critics of laissez faire capitalism have all the good folk songs? All the good novels (well, most of them)? Ditto for poems, plays, stories. Why is virtually all of literature, music and art almost a wholly owned subsidiary of those who oppose economic freedom? Probably, because they work harder at it than we do. It is all the more important, then, that those of us who treasure the free marketplace and private property rights get into this 'industry' as well. Now along comes a very important contribution in this regard: Edward Younkins's new book: Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business Through Literature and Film. He unerringly explores, contemplates and analyzes twenty-five important books and movies that deal with business. I cannot possibly overestimate the importance of this initiative in promoting liberty and the free society. I have been a fan of Ed's for many years now. I greatly admire his previous works, and this one fully lives up to his previous contributions. I am delighted to recommend this book, highly, to all those with an interest in both literature and freedom. A note to English majors: read this book! It will give you a perspective on literature you are unlikely, in the extreme, to have ever seen before. It will be a real thrill to see these books and movies not from the eyes of your typical leftish literature professor, but from the vantage point of someone who celebrates liberty.--Walter Block, Loyola University, New Orleans
The struggle for liberty must consist of more than an intellectual appeal. As Ayn Rand demonstrated in her novels, the establishment of a free society will succeed only if people have an emotional investment in such an outcome. It is art that creates and supports the level of personal involvement required to motivate and sustain people in the face of unrelenting and unforgiving opposition. In his book Exploring Capitalist Fiction: Business Through Literature and Film, Edward Younkins recognizes the power of art as a force both for and against the ideals necessary for a world in which we can exist fully as human beings. Tapping into a wide range of source material, Younkins explores the role of fiction in sustaining or retarding the course the Founders set for our nation. Providing clear yet succinct summaries of a variety of works--including The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, Atlas Shrugged, and the movie Wall Street-- Younkins succeeds in explaining and analyzing these twenty-five diverse works in the context of his book's themes. Readers of Exploring Capitalist Fiction will enjoy these bite-sized introductions to unfamiliar works as well as explorations of fiction they have already enjoyed. With luck, Younkins's efforts here will spark more interest in expanding the arguments for freedom beyond dry academic journals to include art that moves us, involves us, and provides us emotional fuel in the face of the greatest task of our lives.--Russell Madden, Author of the novel, Death is Easy
Ed Younkins's newest book will be indispensable to anyone either teaching or studying the portrayal of business in American fiction, plays, and films over the past century and a quarter. His admirably evenhanded summaries of twenty-five important works in this tradition, and his exhaustive lists of other titles not discussed at length, will be useful also to the general reader who simply wants to discover more about how commercial enterprise has been depicted in novels, plays, and movies over the past hundred years or so.--Jeff Riggenbach, Author of In Praise of Decadence, and Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism
This work includes essays on an amazingly wide range of American novels, plays, and films from the past two centuries, all containing business and economic themes and content. Younkins's insightful reading of many of the major texts that explore issues of business and capitalism is a welcome addition to interdisciplinary studies. It can easily serve as a guideline for a course in either a College of Business or a College of Liberal Arts.--Mimi R. Gladstein, University of Texas at El Paso
About the Author
Edward W. Younkins is professor of accountancy and director of graduate programs in the Department of Business at Wheeling Jesuit University.
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Younkins is to be commended for emphasizing the value of fiction as a teaching tool for both students of business and individuals immersed in the business world. A thorough reading of the book's Conclusion is highly recommended for attaining an understanding of the unique ability of fiction to communicate memorable lessons rooted in specific, richly detailed situations which render the conflicts, dilemmas, and options faced by individuals in the business world more palpable and engaging than would a sole reliance on lectures, case studies, and outlines of business and economic concepts. In addition, the Conclusion offers a fast-paced chronological overview of many more fictional works which address business themes and which have made their mark on the world of artistic culture.
As with his previous volumes, where Dr. Younkins provided integrated presentations of the thoughts of great philosophers and economists throughout the centuries, this book provides a refreshing focus on human flourishing and the application of the lessons of particular novels, plays, and films toward the improvement of both one's own condition and the degree of prosperity found in the broader economy. This is not literary analysis for its own sake, but rather a book that highlights the lessons an individual can take from each great work and apply to his or her own life.
Younkins combines his support for free markets, entrepreneurial innovation, individualism, reason, and moral responsibility with an ability to point out the many valuable insights in those works which criticize capitalism as conventionally understood. He utilizes the insights of Austrian economics and his extensive knowledge of economic history to show how the bleak portrayals of businessmen and the business world in these books stem from the consequences of situations where the principles of honest free commerce and individual rights were violated. When critics of capitalism express their objections through fiction, they inevitably portray situations where fraud, corruption, morally questionable manipulation, corporatist special privileges, thoughtless conformity, and zero-sum thinking are involved. All of these are indeed negative attributes from the standpoints of free markets and rational philosophy as well, and Younkins's analysis shows that the works of the critics do make valid points - provided that one understands that the system they are criticizing is the one that has actually prevailed in the Western world over the past century. This is the system which mixes aspects of capitalist free enterprise with significant aspects of corporatist cronyism as well as central planning. It is a system quite different from the free-market capitalism advocated by Henry Hazlitt, Garet Garrett, and Ayn Rand. Indeed, in Atlas Shrugged, the protagonists go on strike precisely against this sort of cronyist system, though one that is farther-gone than our own. In Tucker: The Man and His Dream, an excellent movie to which Younkins devotes a chapter, this is also the system which attempts to suppress a genuine forward-thinking capitalist innovator, Preston Tucker, through the use of political force, motivated by the lobbying of the staid Big Three automobile companies.
For readers of all persuasions, Exploring Capitalist Fiction is an excellent means to appreciate the richness and variety of fictional portrayals of business, especially since the Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. The book offers a concise introduction to many works and endeavors to motivate readers to seek out and experience the original novels, plays, and films. Hopefully, it will inspire many people to explore these great works of fiction, as it has already inspired me on multiple occasions.
Disclosure: The author received a free copy of the book in advance of publication.
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