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The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Today we have greater wealth, health, opportunity, and choice than at any time in history. Yet a chorus of intellectuals and politicians laments our current condition -- as slaves to technology, coarsened by popular culture, and insecure in the face of economic change. The future, they tell us, is dangerously out of control, and unless we precisely govern the forces of cha ...more
Paperback, First Touchstone Edition, 265 pages
Published December 8th 1999 by Free Press (first published September 1st 1998)
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Noah Easterly
May 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: hardcovers, abandoned
My dad gave this to me to read. Here's some from my letter to him:

So far I've read the introduction ("The Search for Tomorrow") and the first two chapters ("The One Best Way" and "The Party of Life").

I figured you gave it to me so I could tell you what I think.

It is, as the author says, "An unabashedly dynamist work" (xvii), but to me, that's a drawback. Though she defines the two groups fairly succinctly ("a regulated, engineered world" vs "a world of constant creation, discovery, and competit
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Giant of a book among its peers, avoids petty liberal or conservative side-taking yet provides a powerful critique of all those who fear dynamic change. The examples are rich, the thesis feels proven by the time you finish. By the time you are done -- and, if you are honest -- you realize that the war between dynamism and stasis is alive and well in your own mind as well as in the world she describes.
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Stasists.
Postrel's worldview is an intriguing take on how governments and central planning squander creativity and innovation. Dynamism is the way of the future. ...more
Boniface Sindala
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
What type of a thinker are you, static or dynamic? Virginia talks about the two types of thinkers and law makers and how the world is to be shaped in the view of both. She talks about the future and how impossible it is to be imagined in a static way. She also talks about the future and growth and how it all happens dynamically.
Aaron Gertler
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Note: This is a fun and lighthearted book of ideas, and I review it as such, rather than as a definitive literary answer to the Big Questions. I think some of the answers Postrel supplies are more or less correct, and I agree with her more often than not, but don't expect more than intellectual entertainment that will make you think a few times.

* * * * *

I love reading "big idea" books from 20 years ago. It puts a fresh spin on things not to keep seeing the same names and headlines. Instead, I ca
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a well written and insightful book on the tensions between innovation and creativity on the one hand and economic growth and stability on the other. The issue is how the growth and prosperity that stem from the exercise of freedom and creativity can lead to increased pressures for regulation and order that can end up stifling the creativity and innovation that brought about the prosperity. The book is a cogent linking of libertarian ideas with economic ideas of entrepreneurship, innovati ...more
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was fantastic. Somewhere between current(ish) events, politics, sociology, and philosophy is this book. It's not about right vs. left but about change (dynamism) vs. stasis. Postrel offers a critical lens through which a lot of political/social behavior makes sense. Why did these two people with very different world views come together to promote "A" and these other two people with different views come together to fight it? Through the lens of dynamism and stasis, this question becomes ...more
Shea Mastison
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was surprised and excited when I first came across this book; the premise was very interesting, and when I found out that Virginia Postrel had acted as editor of Reason magazine, I anticipated that I would be in for an enjoyable ride.

Happily, I can report that was the case. Postrel makes the claim that society can no longer be comfortably broken into "left/right" categories, and that as a descriptive comparison, the idea of dynamism contra stasism is much more useful.

She lays out the respect
May 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
one of the few books in recent years that really shook up and helped shape how i view the world
Douglas Wilson
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Apr 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
Deeply stupid libertarian agitprop that hinges on libeling all opposition to unregulated markets, commercialized culture (if you reject Disneyland, you reject the greatest insights of early modern English poetry!), & ecological devastation as reactionary, stasist (as the book rebrands the tired ole libertarian slur statist), & (crypto-)racist, so Daniel Bell, Kirkpatrick Sale, Clinton & Gore, & al. are blithely equated w/ Pol Pot, the Unabomber, & US southern segregationists. What stands athwart ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Postrel offers Dynamist and Statist as a new dichotomy for looking at things to replace old dichotomies such as Liberal and Conservative, etc. The beauty of this book is the framework it offers: More than just conveying information or her thoughts, she provides a new way to look at anything, be it political, social, commercial or any category.

As with any worthwhile nonfiction, it reads like a textbook in parts - but Postrel's style is lighter than I expected. This book is easy to understand, des
Paul Crider
"The Future and Its Enemies" is an obvious allusion to Karl Popper's "The Open Society and Its Enemies," and a lucid description and powerful defense of the open society is exactly what this book offers. Virginia Postrel combines an intuitive understanding of how complex adaptive systems function and evolve with insights about what norms and attitudes are best-suited for maintaining our own dynamic social system.

Progress happens by allowing individuals to experiment and innovate. This launches
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Virginia Postrel has found the future’s enemies, and they are what she calls the stasists, those who believe in a utopian past that cannot be improved upon (a subgroup she labels reactionaries) or those who would erase all possibility of happy accident by planning the future to the last detail (her “technocrats”). Opposed to them lie the dynamists, those who see the future as supple, unfixed and unplanned. This group’s chief virtues are experimentation, curiosity, and above all, play. The stasis ...more
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finally got around to reading The Future and Its Enemies, though I'd bought it several years ago. Author Virginia Postrel has found a new answer to the "two kinds of people in the world" separations. She doesn't divide along conservative-liberal lines or capitalist-socialist lines. She cleaves the population into dynamists and statists.

A dynamist accepts change, and the messiness and uncertainty that come with it. This is a wide-ranging book, and Postrel cites support for her thesis in hundre
James Henderson
Virginia Postrel's vision of dynamism is the best guide for human action since the work of her intellectual mentor (and mine) Friedrich Hayek. In a short book of only eight chapters and less than three hundred pages she shatters myths about the nature and importance of technology, economic growth, and the nature of progress. Rather than focusing on traditional polarities such as right and left she shows how the views people take toward these issues define their lives and future. The result of he ...more
Dana Kraft
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, nonfiction
The two most thought-provoking (for me) concepts in the book were:
1. What is 'natural'? and what is 'artificial'? I certainly have a tendency to prefer something that is "natural", but her arguments make me question that tendency, and question what those words mean to me.
2. The chapter titled "On the Verge" made me think harder about how I perceive a wide range of social and economic trends. It seems like I hear the phrase "we are on the verge of...." a lot, usually intended to create fear and t
Art King
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Postrel forces you to think explicitly about the future. I have 10 children. Thus I have more invested in the future than most people. The future my children and grandchildren inherit and create be mostly shaped by people with dynamist views. After all, it is the dynamists who created civilization. To be sure, history is full of examples where the forces of stasis won over the dynamists, sometimes for centuries. However, I think the future is with the dynamists. I'm betting this book will be con ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Insightful position on a rarely explored dimension, applicable to Libertarianism. Postrel is a "dynamist" (vs. "stasist") and she achieves a fascinating, compact explanation of the difference and meaning. The few years since this was published continue to prove her points. I'm still undecided regarding some of the bioethical issues, but am generally convinced of the merits of "dynamism." ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a transformational book for me in the way it took the main themes of human progress out of politics and culture and placed them into something more universal and less tribal (at least in terms of left-right). Brilliantly argued by a writer who's skilled enough to state complex ideas simply. ...more
Frank Thiel
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and will recommend it to others. I think the most convincing part of the book is the chapter on the bonds of life. Her idea of nested rules presents a worthwhile argument against those who would argue that this type of worldview would lead to terrible things without government regulation.
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Top-notch, even if some chapters are better than others. I will recommend this as an outstanding introductory text to folks in the future. The distinction between dynamists, reactionaries, and technocrats is very useful and will be employed as one of my conceptual models moving forward.
Postrel is a great writer and does a fantastic job of presenting and popularizing the essentially Hayekian ideas. I highly recommend it.
Douglas Ross
Oct 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
A well reasoned libertarian view of how the future should be open and free so that creative progress isn't inhibited by goverment and regulation. ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Hard to categorize and now a bit dated, this volume still provides a useful structure to organize current events and trends.
Mike Wagner
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A very helpful framework for making sense politics and society.

The chapter on rules that promote a dynamic model (Chapter 5) is especially thought-provoking.
Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Good, but I didn't take much away from it. ...more
May 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Dated..but groundbreaking it it's day. ...more
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, philosophy
A useful expansion of the map. Far ahead of Sowell's visions, but lacking Lakoff's cognitive science input. Slightly limited for coming from and focusing on the tech sector. ...more
Stephen Henninger
Postrel presents a convincing argument about dynamism. However, she goes on much too long with examples and the book could have been cut in half.
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35 likes · 8 comments
“With some exceptions, the enemies of the future aim their attacks not at creativity itself but at the dynamic processes through which it is carried.” 0 likes
“The future we face at the dawn of the twenty-first century is, like all futures left to themselves, “emergent, complex messiness.” Its “messiness” lies not in disorder, but in an order that is unpredictable, spontaneous, and ever shifting, a pattern created by millions of uncoordinated, independent decisions.” 0 likes
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