Debating the End of History
The Marketplace, Utopia, and the Fragmentation of Intellectual Life
Publication Year: 2012
Why do modern people assume that there will be perpetual economic growth? Because, David W. Noble tells us in this provocative study of cultural criticism, such a utopian conviction is the necessary foundation for bourgeois culture. One can imagine the existence of modern middle classes only as long as the capitalist marketplace is expanding. For Noble, the related—and relevant—question is, how can the middle classes believe that a finite earth is an environment in which infinite growth is possible? The answer, which Noble so painstakingly charts, is nothing less than a genealogy of the uses and abuses of knowledge that lie at the heart of so many of our political problems today.
As far back as Plato and as recently as Alan Greenspan, Noble finds proponents of the idea of a world of independent, rational individuals living in timeless simplicity, escaping from an old world of interdependence and generations. Such notions, although in sync with Newtonian science, have come up against the subsequent conclusions of geology, biology, and the physics of Einstein. In a survey of the responses to this quandary of historians, economists, literary critics, and ecologists, Noble reveals how this confrontation, and its implications for a single global marketplace, has forced certain academic disciplines into unnatural—and untenable—positions.
David Noble’s work exposes the cost—not academic at all—of the segregation of the physical sciences from the humanities and social sciences, even as it demonstrates the required movement of the humanities toward the ecological vision of a single, interconnected world.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Download PDF (6.7 MB)
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (112.9 KB)
Download PDF (84.5 KB)
Download PDF (131.0 KB)
At an American Studies Association session honoring David Noble some years ago, the most arresting tribute came from the Chicana feminist Dr. Edén Torres, a former student of David’s. Torres allowed that in her early encounters with him she harbored doubts about what she had to learn from David across differences in race, gender, gen-...
Download PDF (85.3 KB)
My greatest debt is to my wife, Gail. She is a student of American cul-tures, and we have never-ending conversations about themes in this book. She translates my handwriting into print and in doing so makes important editorial suggestions about particular words, sentences, I thank a group of friends with whom I share an interest in defin-...
Chapter 1: Two-World Metaphors, From Plato To Alan Greenspan
Download PDF (209.4 KB)
...economic growth? The answer I present in this book is that such a utopian belief is the necessary foundation for bourgeois culture. One can imagine the existence of modern middle classes only as long as the capitalist marketplace is expanding. There must be endless surpluses for capitalists to exchange. The related question, then, is how is it pos-...
Chapter 2: Historians Against History
Download PDF (542.1 KB)
...tion in negative terms. They had made an exodus from an old world of artful culture to a new world of artless nature. They had escaped timeful societies to achieve harmony with timeless space. They also recognized the gift given them by classical Greece and Rome—the gift of knowing that two worlds existed. They acknowledged this gift by ...
Chapter 3: Economists Discover A New New World
Download PDF (448.3 KB)
...gued that the first English settlers coming to North America believed ised that they were entering a land of timeless harmony. When they quickly experienced timeful change, they lamented that this was a sinful declension from the perfect world given them by the Divinity. They searched for scapegoats on whom they could blame the declen-...
Chapter 4: Literary Critics Become Cultural Critics
Download PDF (308.4 KB)
...focus on American intellectual history. My adviser, Merle Curti, encouraged me to substitute courses in American literature and in America philosophy for the usual requirement of a cluster of courses in European history. Earlier, when my professors at Princeton had learned of my interest in intellectual history, they recommended ...
Chapter 5: Ecologists On Why History Will Never End
Download PDF (389.9 KB)
Enlightenment, bourgeois men in Europe and in their American colo-nies appealed to the authority of their new science to demonstrate that they and they alone were rational. They contrasted themselves to what they were beginning to define as the European “Dark Ages.” But, for them, all traditional cultures were irrational, unstable, and timeful. ...
Chapter 6: When Prophecy Fails
Download PDF (849.2 KB)
Ir r a t I o na l Ex u b E r a n c E is the title of a book published in 2000. The author, Robert Shiller, is an economist. He was responding to what he called the “herd behavior” of people in the 1990s. Why, he asked, did so many intelligent people believe they were entering a “New Era” with a “New Economy”? Why, he asked, did they believe that in this ...
Download PDF (202.2 KB)
Download PDF (155.9 KB)
About the authors
Download PDF (60.1 KB)
...david w. noble is professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of several books, including Death of a Nation: American Culture and the End of Exceptionalism david r. roediger is professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He is the author of How Race Survived U.S. ...
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Critical American Studies