Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism
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Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  43 reviews
“A superb analysis of the crisis in the Midwest and sober advice on how to alleviate, if not eliminate, the region’s pain…Caught in the Middle provides a brilliant battle plan.”—Chicago Tribune

The Midwest has always been the heart of America—both its economic bellwether and the repository of its national identity. Now, in a newly globalized age, the Midwest is challenged...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA (first published December 26th 2007)
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George
DESPERATION, DESOLATION AND DESPAIR; amidst the “decay of decline.” Those are the good things to be said for the mid-western United States in the early twenty-first century.

The message Richard C. Longworth has to deliver to the Midwest, in his excellent, comprehensive, aptly named book, ‘Caught in the Middle,’ seems to be: ‘The industrial age is gone. Forever. Get over it.’ This is the age of Globalization. You bet big, in the past, on heavy industry and small farms; and you won big for a hundr...more
Kristen Northrup
I read this mainly because I recently moved to the Midwest, but it turns out that the author thinks that the Great Plains are separate from the Midwest rather than a subset thereof, so the book technically didn't apply to me. But plenty of it was nevertheless applicable. He's certainly firm about the Midwest bringing most of their problems down upon themselves -- that the problems of globalization (which he never quite defines) are an inevitable result of the Rust Belt downturn of the early 80s,...more
Doug
Jan 04, 2013 Doug rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Midwesterners, esp.
If half of his hypothesis is correct, this is a scary book. Basically he argues that Midwesterners were innovators and trailblazers who perfected the industrial economy. But now, they are hide-bound traditionalists, scared to take risks, hunkered down against the world 'out there,' parochial to a fault, and more interested in preserving a lost past than discovering a new future. Ouch.
Bri
I should probably disclose that I did not read this book by choice so much as I was STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to read it due to the fact my place of employment (a public library) was using it as part of a Community Read project. Otherwise, I probably would have glanced at it, shrugged, and then set it aside for something I actually wanted to read.

Perhaps if I were a journalist or if I wasn't still so bitter toward my Sociology degree, I might have enjoyed this book more. As it was, I spent far too muc...more
Cissa
I grew up in the Midwest- the Minnesota Twin Cities, to be specific- and so I have both a theoretical and a personal interest in the topics addressed in this book. I think Longworth makes many good points; however, I also think he has some blind spots that affected his arguments, solid though they are in many ways.

The most glaring incompatibility I see has to do with immigration and race. Why is it necessary for us to have badly-educated immigrants, essentially making a permanent new underclass,...more
Stephanie Hardiman Simon
Small town politics, fierce independence and reliance the family farm.
They’re all part of what makes Midwesteners who they are, but it also might be what leaves them with one foot, if not both, in the grave, according to Richard C. Longworth’s “Caught in the Middle.”
The 2008 book reads like an obituary to the region that was once a manufacturing powerhouse and is now in the poorhouse because of globalization.
Manufacturing towns have seen their hometown companies leave for cheaper facilities in t...more
Matthew
Live in the midwest? Read this book. Longworth gets some of the details wrong - parts of the book read like his fact checker was out for coffee - but he gets the big picture right. Caught in the Middle is especially rewarding if you've spent any time in Iowa. Burke takes readers through the historcial impetus for places like Boone and Newton and their bleaker prospects for the future.

Much has been written about the decline of the midwest,to be sure, and Caught in the Middle spares no one: from D...more
edh
(Note: this review was written about three books thematically linked. See titles in content:)

Separately, these are all well-written and readable studies of Midwestern life. The authors have taken their time to interact and even live with their subjects, lending their portrayals of small-town folks touches of realism rather than resorting to caricature. Methland, naturally, deals with the methamphetamine epidemic in Oelwein, Iowa: one small town among many ravaged by the eponymous drug. The citiz...more
Jim
This is a hugely insightful look at the socioeconomics of the Midwest and the way the region is mostly failing to cope with globalization.

As a Midwesterner, it's just a little depressing. I've seen the dynamics which Longworth describes playing out in a number of small towns and cities in which I've lived. During the 2008 Republican primary in Michigan, John McCain told a Michigan crowd that the manufacturing jobs they had lost were not coming back. He was roundly booed. On the same day, Mitt R...more
Allisonperkel
"Caught in the Middle" by Richard Longworth is a trenchant analysis of the Midwest in the age of globalisation. Throughout the book, Mr Longworth takes great pains to show how most of the midwest has not thrived and how the policies of the past are not the policies of the 21st century.

The line walked is very fine, and every corner, every sacred cow, gets its good and bad points exposed. From unions that brought us weekends and living wages to unions that resisted change and eventually cost jobs...more
marcus miller
If you live in the Midwest or care about the future of the Midwest you should read this book. Though Longworth's analysis and predictions are rather depressing I found the book to be interesting and at times rather amusing. It seems obvious Longworth cares deeply about the Midwest and hopes for a positive future but at the same time he recognizes most Midwesterner's are content to either ignore the problems, or to blame their problems on others.

Longworth's description of the Midwestern mentalit...more
Tami Coleman
Since moving to the midwest five years ago, it's struck me how much whining goes on about its lost glories, both locally and regionally. People here are just OBSESSED with this subject. So I was curious about joining a local discussion about this book sponsored by our United Way.

The book covers the same ground that every other op-ed, report, or analysis one encounters on the subject of how and why the rustbelt is not having a very good 21st century. This author, however, is a bit more critical o...more
Colette
Wow. This book explained so much. There were parts that I didn't quite agree with (I found his views on immigrant communities to be a little laced with scare tactics, but what do I know, I'm just a goddamn hippie) but his explanation at how the Midwest has gone from a cultural and economic powerhouse to the sad sack of stubborn stasis that it is was damn near shocking for me, whose premise for entering graduate school pretty much is the thesis of this book. Why has the Midwest gone from hero to...more
Jeff
Not normally the kind of book I read, but interesting. I felt at times like the author could have used a good editor to go over it one more time before publishing because I felt that the conclusions were at the beginning of the book, and I didn't like the solutions to the problems all jammed into the last chapter. For me, I'd have preferred to read the solutions in the chapter detailing the problems. I also took issue with some of the authors premises at the beginning. But aside from those criti...more
Jack
Interesting, valuable consideration of the American midwest as an economic unit. Longworth considers geography, natural resources, urban/rural mix and development, evolution of technology, personality characteristics of important immigrant and ethnic groups as a mix of factors which led to the midwest's devlopment as an economic powerhouse during the 20th century and its decline going into the 21st.

Unfortunately, Lomgworth describes only in passing the negative effect of unionization in the regi...more
Emily
This book isn't revolutionary. It probably won't change the way you think, but it does make it's case well, pointing to useful examples and statistics. (Though it could probably be half the size. Longworth repeats himself a lot.) While reading the book, the foibles of city and state governments certainly became much more noticeable. I thought about the fight over CME and Sears in terms of this book, and it makes his argument all the more understandable.

The nice thing about this book is, if you'r...more
Greg Majewski
Full disclosure: I read this book, then had Longworth as a guest lecturer in one of my master's classes, then saw him again as the keynote speaker at a professional conference I attended. Each time I liked his opinions less and less. This book offers an interesting history of the Midwest that I won't argue is inaccurate. However, it basically becomes an airing of grievances of what we're all doing wrong after that. Having lived in the Midwest for basically my entire adult life, I felt affornted...more
Nathan
Aug 10, 2010 Nathan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Nathan by: Won it via First Reads
A quick and focused read, but not one that I felt good reading. Longworth's object is to document the effects of globalism on the North American Midwest and, ostensibly, to allay the fears of those whose livelihoods and cultures are being transformed by the massive concentration and consolidation of economies brought on by it. In so doing, however, he offers an unsympathetic ultimatum: adjust or be left behind. That's not a helpful, constructive or particularly nuanced view of the situation, and...more
Mimi Berkshire
Thought provoking. Must read for small Midwestern towns.
Rachel
Insightful and accessible analysis of malaise in the Midwest, with some policy recommendations thrown in, perhaps to lighten the otherwise overwhelmingly negative assessment of the current situation, culture and economic prospects of the region. Especially given the negative tone, the editor could have eliminated some needless repetition of the author's main points -- in this context the repetition produces a scolding/ranting tone which isn't really necessary -- the situation is depressing enoug...more
Joyce
Although a few years old, this book still provides a very accurate look at the situation in the Midwest. It especially foresees the denigration of education that continues. The author offers some interesting ideas about what should happen to our university system. He also talks quite a bit about the ineffectiveness of our current political system. Definitely worth reading, especially if you live in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Missouri.
Lisa
In this book Richard Longworth explores America's Midwest and how globalization is affecting it. He looks at how our history and culture have brought us to where we are today. It is often a harsh exploration of the problems and our responses. Yet, he does not leave us without hope for the future. He explores some places in the Midwest that are doing well, and offers suggestions to bring about a brighter future for the region as a whole.
Sandra
Interesting book which only makes it more obvious that as teachers we must convey the need to graduate from high school as well as pursue a college degree. We as a society need to be more innovative in creating new opportunities for industries with jobs that can not be outsourced. Jonathan Friedman's The World is Flat addresses these same issues but his book is not confined to "the heartland" but rather the whole United States.
Linda Stoner
Jul 20, 2010 Linda Stoner rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: David Livingston
Longworth expands and contracts Friedman's "The World Is Flat" discussion to the Midwest. His definition of the Midwest, by the way is Ohio west through Iowa and from Minnesota south through the northern portion of Missiour. Only KC and Lawrence in Kansas make it into the discussion. He offered some very provocative thoughts that were new to me.
Sarah
There's some interesting stuff in here, particularly the chapters about how agriculture works now. But there are just way too many Friedman-esque generalizations and platitudes (with a dash of Richard Florida thrown in) to take this seriously.

But, then, according to Longworth's definition of the Midwest, I'm a native Southerner, so what do I know?
Deborah Treon
A good analysis of the decline of manufacturing in the Midwest, and the economy built on it. Not a tough read...not sure I read anything that was surprising or more insightful than news articles, etc. Still, living here, it seems more "real" to me than, say, it would a CA surfer dude. (Nothing against California or surfing or dudes!).
Kara
Part politics, part history, part commentary. Being from WI, I found much of what was said here very accurate about the Midwest I grew up in. However, the Midwest has the brainpower to pull us out of this economic crisis but needs to pull together as a region and refocus the workforce's attention.
Gary
Longworth does a great job of describing why some Midwestern cities have thrived in the new global economy while others have struggled. An interesting side note is that he makes a persuasive case for immigration as one avenue of new economic vitality for former industrial centers.
Dan
This book is easy to read and is, as far as cultural analysis goes, dead on accurate in laying out the decline of the midwest in the face of globalization. Longworth makes the mistake of offering solutions to this crisis, but his diagnosis is still worth reading.
Anna Tarkov
I learned a great deal from this book and strongly urge all Midwesterners to read it. The social, political and economic ramifications of all this are immense so please allow yourself to be informed by someone who is not a cable news host, elected official, etc.
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“...the Midwest is coping with a twenty-first-century problem [globalization] with a nineteenth-century political and social structure [relying on state and city solutions rather than regional solutions].” 1 likes
“Towns [in the Midwest] with immigrants are growing. Towns without immigrants are shrinking. It's as simple as that.” 1 likes
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