Monday, December 3, 2007

Corporate Wasteland

Steve High's new book, Corporate Wasteland, a collaboration with the photographer David Lewis, has arrived in bookstores and the book launch is next Monday, December 10th which I, fingers crossed, will be at with Karen, Emily, and Hope. Steve provides the text and David the images, and while the book is far more text than image, that balance is somewhat reversed in the travelling exhibition they co-curated with the same title.

For those who wonder how historians can produce a "usable past" for a more just future, get your hands on this book. It is not polemical, but it is very political. While on one level a fascinating, scholarly study of the cultures of post-Fordist political economy, Corporate Wasteland is also a book about the politics of place, community, and class, and a poetic missile fired at the idea that deindustrialization is a "natural" by-product of globalization and transnational corporations. It is the last message which the book delivers not only to politicians and corporate executives but also to academics and others who, even when they demonstrate great empathy for the suffering of workers and local communities (most famously, Youngstown, Ohio and its "Black Monday"), do not contest the metanarritive of inevitability. Of course, Corporate Wasteland says and shows this with far more style and humanity than my crude summary conveys. In lesser hands, the book might have become sentimental and its politics muddled. Neither, I assure you, is the case here.