85. Three Most Significant Books: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org
85. Three Most Significant Books
The three most influential books ever published in North America, setting aside the Bible and The New England Primer, were all published in the years of the Utopian transformation of America which gave us government schooling: Uncle Tom 's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly (1852), a book which testifies to the ancient obsession of English- speaking elites with the salvation of the under-classes; Ben-Hur (1880), a book illustrating the Christian belief that Jews can eventually be made to see the light of reason and converted; and the last a pure Utopia, Looking Backwards (1888), still in print more than one hundred years later, translated into thirty languages.'
In 1944, three American intellectuals, Charles Beard, John Dewey, and Edward Weeks, interviewed separately, proclaimed Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards second only to Marx's Das Kapital as the most influential book of modern times. Within three years of its publication, 165 "Bellamy Clubs" sprouted up. In the next twelve years, no less than forty-six other Utopian novels became best sellers.
Was it Civil War, chaos, decades of mass immigration, or a frightening series of bloody national labor strikes shattering our class-free myths that made the public ready for stories of a better tomorrow? Whatever the cause or causes, the flowering communities of actual American utopianism took on real shape in the nineteenth century, from famous ones like Owenite communities and Fourienan phalansteres or Perfectionist sexual stews like Oneida, right down to little-known oddities, like Mordecai Noah's "Ararat," city of refuge for Jews. First they happened, then they were echoed in print, not the reverse. Nothing in the human social record matches the outburst of purely American longing for something better in community life, the account recorded in deeds and words in the first full century of our nationhood.
What Bellamy's book uncovered in middle-class/upper-middle-class consciousness was revealing — the society he describes is a totally organized society, all means of production are in the hands of State parent-surrogates. The conditions of well-behaved, middle-class childhood are recreated on a corporate scale in these early Utopias. Society in Bellamy's ideal future has eliminated the reality of democracy, citizens are answerable to commands of industrial officers, little room remains for self-initiative. The State regulates all public activities, owns the means of production, individuals are transformed into a unit directed by bureaucrats.
Erich Fromm thought Bellamy had missed the strong similarities between corporate socialism and corporate capitalism — that both converge eventually in goals of industrialization, that both are societies run by a managerial class and professional politicians, both thoroughly materialistic in outlook; both organize human masses into a centralized system; into large, hierarchically arranged employment-pods, into mass political parties. In both, alienated corporate man — well-fed, well-clothed, well- entertained — is governed by bureaucrats. Governing has no goals beyond this. At the end of history men are not slaves, but robots. This is the vision of Utopia seen complete.
6. Economist Donald Hodges' book, America's New Economic Order, traces the intellectual history of professionalism in management (John Kenneth Galbraith's corporate "Technostructure" in The New Industrial State) to Looking Backwards which described an emerging public economy similar to what actually happened. Hodges shows how various theorists of the Utopian transition like John Dewey and Frederick Taylor shaped the regime of professional managers we live under. No Place To Hide