Book Bits | 30 June 2018

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America
By Alissa Quart
Excerpt via Money Magazine
“Surplus humans.”
That’s the callous term Karl Fogel, partner at Open Tech Strategies, an open-source technology firm, used when describing the unwitting employee-victims of advances in automation. Cruelty aside, it’s a term that could easily describe once secure “middle-class” professions, including jobs in the automotive industry, nursing, tax preparing, office administration and law.
When I started reporting my book Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America five years ago, I found many culprits for rising insecurity among what I called the Middle Precariat, a group that suffered from the cost of their children’s daycare, and from rent and mortgages, of course, and copious student and health care debt. But they were also afflicted by the hovering fear of being put out of work by our mechanical brethren.

For-Profit Democracy: Why the Government Is Losing the Trust of Rural America
By Loka Ashwood
Summary via publisher (Yale University Press)
Why is government distrust rampant, especially in the rural United States? This book offers a simple explanation: corporations and the government together dispossess rural people of their prosperity, and even their property. Based on four years of fieldwork, this eye-opening assessment by sociologist Loka Ashwood plays out in a mixed-race Georgia community that hosted the first nuclear power reactors sanctioned by the government in three decades. This work serves as an explanatory mirror of prominent trends in current American politics. Churches become havens for redemption, poaching a means of retribution, guns a tool of self-defense, and nuclear power a faltering solution to global warming as governance strays from democratic principles. In the absence of hope or trust in rulers, rural racial tensions fester and divide. The book tells of the rebellion that unfolds as the rights of corporations supersede the rights of humans.

The Coming Revolution: Capitalism in the 21st Century
By Ben Reynolds
Summary via publisher (Zero Books)
A technological revolution is driving capitalism toward crisis and collapse. Can our society evolve in time to rescue the future? Radical advances in automation, robotics, and computer technology have thrown millions out of work and will only continue to do so in the years to come. At the same time, cheap, individually-accessible machines will wrestle for primacy with both gleaming highly-automated factories and sweatshops alike, ultimately eroding the dominance of industrial production. Economic growth is slowing down, and it is not going to speed up again. The pressures fueling today’s global unrest will not go away and are only going to get worse as wages stagnate in many countries, solid employment becomes harder to find, and cuts to social benefits continue.

Untangling the USA: The Cost of Complexity and What Can Be Done About It
By Etienne Deffarges
Press release for book
As Americans make plans to celebrate their country’s 242 years of independence, a new book is out that says we must return to the country’s roots of elegant and effective simplicity to untangle many of the complex problems with our economic, health care, energy, government, and political systems. “Complexity is not in our DNA,” Etienne Deffarges writes.