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Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  557 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Winner of the George Orwell Award. One of The Atlantic's best books of the year.

As human beings, we've always told stories: stories about who we are, where we come from, and where we're going. Now imagine that one of those stories is taking over the others, narrowing our diversity and creating a monoculture. Because of the rise of the economic story, six areas of your wor
Paperback, 202 pages
Published May 31st 2011 by Red Clover Press (first published 2011)
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Apr 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Cate
Feb 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I think the premise of the book is much more intriguing than the actual read. The premise is that every period in history is dominated by a master story (e.g. the religion story, the science story), and that our period is dominated by the economic story. Monoculture refers to the effect that this master story has on culture: "one narrative in society that takes over the others, shrinking diversity and forming a monoculture." The author argues that values such as truth, beauty, justice, and freed ...more
Lance Thornswood
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: give-away
The principal thesis behind this book is intriguing: In biology monocultures are a bad thing because they weaken the natural bio-diversity of a species, making it more susceptible to a disastrous pest or disease or leaving it less able to adapt to other changes in its environment. This is a well-accepted theory.

Now suppose that same concept also holds true for ideas, especially the key ideas underlying our civilization: religion, community, education, work, relationships. If those are also domin
Abner Rosenweig
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
F.S. Michaels artfully avoids one word throughout her book: capitalism. The entire book is a critique of capitalism, or at least the renegade form of hyper-capitalism we find ourselves suffocating from in the West. By cleverly shielding the reader from the c-word and avoiding polarizing political and economic labels, she encourages readers to simply look at the facts and judge for themselves whether the current economic culture, which pervades all aspects of daily life from relationships to natu ...more
Jordan Munn
Feb 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
The concept of monoculture is intriguing and worthy of thorough insight and discussion. This book, however, was not that. Instead, it's a superficial, formulaic, often-overstated, predictable diatribe against economics as the least common denominator that one is very likely to hear at some stoner gathering in an undergraduate dorm.

One positive takeaway is that the bibliography is really impressive. The goal of the book is very commendable, but it's a failure in the execution.
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Money, it's a hit - Pink Floyd

This book is about cultural patterns the author refers to as 'master stories;' a term she uses to explain how humans understand the world. A master story is the dominant idea at a given time in history, the grid laid over society that shapes how we understand it. She puts it like this:

'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. When you're inside a
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I went into this book expecting something else. I was interested in the idea of how the stories we tell ourselves (whether individually or collectively) shape our decisions or behaviours. This book is basically about how capitalism has ruined everything (education, creativity, science and religion) which for a leftie like me, is not telling me anything I don’t already know. Some pretty basic ideas here, well referenced and expressed.
Emma Sea
Well, fuck. Yes. This. All of this.
Peter Landau
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading MONOCULTURE: HOW ONE STORY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING is like taking the red pill in THE MATRIX. It’ not that I was unaware of how influential the culture of business is, but F.S. Michaels writes about the extent to which it is so persuasive as to pave over all paths and drive our lives, leaving us in the backseat thinking we still have our hands on the wheel, that made me feel as if I had woke up just before going off a cliff.

Every era has its narrative, whether it be religious or scientif
Oct 10, 2011 rated it did not like it
Booooooooooooorrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnggggggg (Sorry Cate). I usually really like narrative nonfiction (think freakanomics, Malcolm Gladwell, Atul Gawande) but I just couldn't get into this one. I think it was the writing style, honestly - this just read like a textbook to me. I didn't find all the examples of the economic story particularly enlightening. Perhaps, though, my upcoming book club discussion will breathe some new life into it. ...more
Lynn Weber
Jun 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was more simplistic than I was hoping. It was basically a repetitive critique of capitalism.
Michael Layden
Simple, easy to digest book, which discusses a complex and grotesque topic. Will be one I will keep additional copies of to get people to think more about how economics frames our view of the world.
Glen Grunau
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
It has been almost 9 years since I read this book. Today (February 14, 2021) I began reading another book on economics: ”Doughnut Economics”. One of the first citations in this new book was to reference this ”old” book, prompting me to return to edit a new introduction to this review. Something clearly has been percolating in me as I continue to be distressed by the ongoing perpetual economic injustice that reigns in our world. I hope that reading Doughnut Economics will continue this inner dist ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is a mess. That's a shame because Michaels makes important, if not novel, observations about the rise of market theory in aspects across our society, and she does a great job of making this message interesting and digestible. With more focus, restraint and effort this could have been a landmark book on contemporary culture. The middle chapters are a moving summary of how economic theory has changed varied aspects of our lives.

The biggest problem is the weakly argued abstraction of the
Sara Marks
Aug 29, 2011 rated it liked it
I got this ebook from LibraryThings’ early reviewer program. In exchange for a free copy of the book, I have to post a review.

I have been sitting on this book for months. I just wasn’t in the head space for it until recently. The premise of the book is that our society and culture develops around one common message. The modern message is one of economics. Michaels’ does a good job explaining how the economic message has permeated our lives from our careers and education to our religion and creat
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book completely captured my attention. I thought it would be a hard read but I was intrigued right from the beginning about how I could "transcend" the monoculture once I understood it. I also like how the implications transcend all cultures and all people. The book does a great job of encompassing the main components of most people's lives in the six chapters about work, relationships and the natural world, community, physical and spiritual health, education and creativity - themes that es ...more
May 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I want to start this review with one of those deep movie trailer voices - "If there is one non-fiction book you should read this year..." - to get your attention, to add drama but actually I'd really mean it. Read this book.

Full disclosure: FS Michaels is a colleague of mine but this book still kicks non-fiction ass. Michaels takes on the rise of the economic story and shows how it is changing the way that we live:

"As human beings, we’ve always told stories: "stories about who we are, where we
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
What I took from this book: we've let money fuck everything up. The economic story has become the dominant one for most everything in life, including things that might should've been left out of it. Things like health care, education, and art. Additionally, when you evaluate everything - having children, your relationships with others, your hobbies even - in terms of how they benefit you (or not) in economic terms, we lose the character of life and of living as humans.

Not everyone wants to live
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm just in the early stages, but so far, great read. I have some strong thoughts on much of what I;ve read so far, including Michael's accurate description of how our current Economic Monoculture is influencing just about everything is Western lives. I just finished reading his take on those who've tried to mix non-profit with a for-profit model, and his take that "experts" agree this is a bad idea. Coming from the Economic mindset, this makes sense. But my own experience shows that there is ye ...more
Sarah Sammis
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Monoculture by F.S. Michaels looks at how the unwritten and unspoken dominant culture of an area can shape the lives of the people within that culture. She argues that the current monoculture of the developed world is money — or more broadly the worth of things and actions.

Michaels outlines her argument around these key areas: work, relationship with others, relationships with the world, education, physical health, mental health, communities, and creativity. Against each of these areas of the hu
It is perhaps unfair to be frustrated with a book called "Monoculture" for being so one-sided in its argument. But nonetheless, I am. I read this with an eye toward using it in my argumentation and reasoning course, and I may yet do so: the things it does well--constructing a particular perspective--it does very well. But its representation of its sources within its prose is, to my way of thinking, borderline unethical; it relies almost wholly upon endnotes to indicate its source material, and t ...more
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Won this on First Reads Giveaway. I can't wait for its arrival.

Great book that really makes you think about the forces that shape thoughts and culture. The way economics permeates all aspects of modern life and shapes the discussion and reality is a sobering thought. The book is well researched, well written, and accessible to a wide range of readers. At only 130 pages people can fly through this book and then come back and spend some time in the details. My only complaint is about the simplicit
Matthias De Vriendt
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
The idea presented in this book is simple, interesting and inspiring. The narrative however, feels utterly dull. It completely failed to mesmerize me... Until I was about halfway, then it unexpectedly begun to draw me in.

It has source references, which I find a major plus for this kind of book - In fact, a necessity to be credible.

It feels a bit too rational being a book about stories. Other books have told a very similar story much in a more interesting way. Yet, being so rational as it is, it
Krishaan Khubchand
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Reviewing this book one year after reading it and I’ll be updating my rating from 5* to 3. Maybe I’ve just bought into the monoculture 🤷‍♂️

Michaels deals with some pertinent issues, like the inadequacy of GDP and other metrics of growth for measuring actual improvement. She also mentions my pet problem: value capture driven consumer economies which fail to get basic shit right. When it comes to these issues, we’re like fish in water. It’s everywhere, but we look right through it.

With that being
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an entirely worthwhile book to read because the central premise of it is so right and so powerful. However, as another reviewer has pointed out, the writing is weak and the way the author has structured his argument could have been much more powerful. The main reason to read this book, though, is to grasp the concept of a monoculture and recognize that we exist within one here in the United States. People who travel to other countries and cultures will recognize this reality very readily ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book that challenges us to look at the story we're living in now: an economic one. How does the story of economics change everything in our lives into transactional relationships? That's the main takeaway for me. Think about the way you think -- should everything be evaluated by its potential economic value -- it's a good read to wake you up a bit.

While I agree with some other reviewers that the writing style is a little flat and simply done, I think that could also be a strength, in allowing
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: phd-studies
Very surprising and perhaps life-changing book that tells how the one story has changed the world in little over a century. That one story gets hammered in the six middle chapters, but perhaps it is the blunt force that needs to hit us while hitting the nail on its head. We shouldn't feel sore or boxed in - we basically did all this to ourselves each time we took out our wallet or cheque book - by the economically-minded coffin-makers. It is really just one of the many parallel stories we can ac ...more
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book - much food for thought. Highly recommended and I'm glad I have a copy to refer back to. ...more
Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it
This book explains how economics are driving basic levels of culture. Slightly written to invoke fear for the future, but helped corral and define the vague, abstract concept I already had in mind.
Thought provoking—a worthwhile short read.
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Winner of the George Orwell Award. One of The Atlantic's best books of the year.

In Monoculture, F.S. Michaels draws on extensive research and makes surprising connections among disciplines to take a big-picture look at how one story is changing everything.

Michaels' research and writing have been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Killam Trusts, and reg

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The new year has arrived. The clock has been reset. Now is the time to tackle the really ambitious reading challenges–those massive books that...
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“It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you. Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world. —BEN OKRI” 2 likes
“A good story, well told, makes you realize you were yearning for something you had no name for, something you didn’t even know you wanted.” 2 likes
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