su's Reviews > Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything

Monoculture by F.S. Michaels
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Apr 23, 12


David Kelley, pulitzer prize winning historian:

“The entire Bay Area is enamored with these notions of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, mega-success,” he says. “It’s in the air we breathe out here. It’s an atmosphere that can be toxic to ... refuge, contemplation, and investigation for its own sake.”


I give this book 5 stars for quality of ideas, 2.5 stars for quality of execution. I think this is a very important book with a critical message. I'm glad I came across this book (thanks Caterina!) because I've been wanting to find a way to articulate what it is that I find so lacking about the Silicon Valley way of life. ("You find something remiss in the Silicon Valley narrative? Then you must not be as innovative, creative, or entrepreneurial as the rest of us!")

The book's message is that we're now in a time of monocultural homogeneity, where the primary narrative, the governing pattern of our lives, is an economic one. "The governing pattern that a culture obeys is a master story - one narrative in society that takes over the others, shrinking diversity and forming a monoculture." According to the author, the story that is dominating our shared cultural identify is an economic story - that defines who you are as a human being, what the world is like, and how you and that world (and other people) interact as individualistic, economic, rational, productivity&efficiency gauging actors. This economic story has pervaded all parts of our lives - turning healthcare, education, religion, government into "industries" and reduced relationships into transactions.

(So though the book isn't about Silicon Valley specifically, I found it particularly apropos in describing the survival of the fittest, market driven, growth oriented, efficiency obsessed culture of the tech/startup industry. Perhaps what the startup people clamor to say is true - as far as the current narrative driving the world forward goes, Silicon Valley (&China) is the heart of the engine.)

I give the book 2.5 stars for execution because its as if the author wrote purposefully with a style that seems to be aimed at deprogramming cult-brainwashed minds: that is, by stringing together a number of simplistic, uncontroversial sentences that lull potentially resistant readers into agreeing, then sucker punching them at the end when they realize that all of what they have assumed to be their individualistic beliefs have actually been inherited by repeat, pervasive osmosis. So the book has the effect of being repetitive and simplistic.

But still, the book's message is important.

"If we fail to understand how the monoculture shapes our lives and our world, we're at risk of making decisions day after day without ever really understanding how our choices are being predetermined, without understanding how the monoculture even shapes what we think our options are."



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