Posted on December 4, 2012
EXCERPT: Despite the shocking-pink title on its bright yellow cover, Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men focuses primarily on women. Her idea, she says, was to look closely at women in the public sphere, focusing on the workplace and delving into marriage and sexual relationships as a way of showing how public relationships blur into the private arena. According to Rosin, we are at a key moment in history, where women are beginning to outperform men economically and in higher education (in fact, they may begin outperforming men in elementary school). While much of this accomplishment has taken place within the grueling, at times inhumane, environment of the traditional workplace, women in the upper echelons of business have made some strides to change the workplace to better accommodate complex living and working arrangements. Problematically, however, these well-publicized advancements (such as the appointment of former Google executive Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!) also seem to mask need for more sweeping changes that could help lower-income women manage the demands of breadwinning and child care.
I interviewed Rosin over the phone, two weeks before her book was published at Riverhead. There was the sound of sawing from her end of the line. “Someone’s putting new windows into my attic and it’s very loud” she said. The added chaos seemed emblematic of the women she writes about: busy, perhaps too busy, and seeming to make it up as they go along. In her book, Rosin writes admiringly of what she calls a “Seesaw Marriage,” an arrangement that allows for high-achieving couples in an uncertain economic environment to take turns as breadwinner. [More at Guernica.com]
Posted on May 4, 2012
An interview with the Harvard Professor of Economics and author on a society where almost everything is up for sale.
Author Michael Sandel’s new book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets is troubling in the best sense of the word—it “troubles” the complacency with which Americans have received the rapid encroachment of the market into private life. Economics has expanded in the post-freakonomics world and in a global market, according to Sandel, and that expansion has resulted in an historically intrusive use of market forces into “non-market spheres” like education.
In his book, Sandel explains in both intellectual and historic terms how expansionist ideas of the role of economics coincided with the Reaganite elevation of lassiez-faire economics into something like a religion. Sandel frames the issues he finds problematic and shows how “intrinsic values” such as the love of learning for its own sake, can be threatened when market forces are applied—for example, bribing students to do better in school or public schools seeking out corporate sponsors due to budget cuts.
The framework Sandel provides will ideally challenge readers to see the world differently, like the moment in the cult classic They Live (see Jonathan Lethem’s book-length criticism of the film) where the hero puts on a pair of bodacious ray-ban sunglasses and suddenly sees billboards advertising sunny vacations in fact read “OBEY.” What Money Can’t Buy identifies a few of the many areas where market encroachment is problematic (paying to kill an endangered rhino, paying for the right to pollute, branded education) and equips readers with the questions that, Sandel hopes, will begin a public debate about what money should or shouldn’t buy. [More at GuernicaMag.com]
Posted on March 11, 2012
March 11th will mark the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. Cleanup is still under way and the level of radiation exposure is still unknown. The massive earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan are rightly blamed for the disaster at Fukushima but in fact the origins of the problem are far older and more sinister. In 1976 three nuclear engineers resigned from General Electric over massive safety issues they foresaw for nuclear power. The Mark1 reactor they helped design and build was the same reactor that failed at Fukushima. The engineers, Dale G. Bridenbaugh, Richard B. Hubbard and Gregory C. Minor, became known as the “GE Three.” Their defection came just as concerns over nuclear power were beginning to go mainstream, and the GE Three provided expert testimony that helped catalyze America’s first anti-nuclear movement.
Gregory C. Minor’s son, Mark, recalls the incident that finally spooked his father into quitting. Minor had worked on the reactor and control room design for a GE Plant called “Brown’s Ferry” in Alabama. His role at GE was to increase plant security by simplifying the controls and adding layers of defense. “It was stupid human error,” Mark says. The plant had backup plan after backup plan but one employee “went looking for leaks with a candle and caught the electrical system on fire.” [MORE at GuernicaMag.com]