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An American Affidavit

Friday, November 29, 2019

85. Three Most Significant Books: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

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 

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