Re: How has America changed?
Virginia Postrel is a political and cultural writer who is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, editor-in-chief of DeepGlamour.net, and the author of The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies. She is currently writing a book on glamour for The Free Press. She previously wrote an economics column in The New York Times for six years, served as editor of Reason and has worked as a reporter for Inc. Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Individual Rights and is a popular blogger and speaker. She was educated at Princeton University and lives in Los Angeles.
Virginia Postrel: We take for granted things that are vast changes in a very short period of time. Before World War II, the U.S. was extremely divided geographically. There was not . . . People didn’t travel. Most people didn’t travel very far outside their region. There was relatively little national media. And of course there were, while we had had a period of large-scale immigration, at that time there was much more culturally homogeneous population. But also, it was a population that each individual person within whatever world they lived could think the rest of the country was like them. I actually am a little skeptical about how homogeneous the population was. There was kind of a model that the world was like you, or the world was like some standard. We’ve gone from that world to not only a diverse world, but one where everyone is interacting with everybody else. And there’s fragmentation and specialization, but also much more national chains. National media. National travel. Plane travels. Everybody complains the airlines are full of people and it’s very stressful, but that’s a very big difference and allows you to travel great distances. Tremendous changes. Technological changes. Life span changes. And then things like family structure have changed enormously. When Louise Brown was born in England – the first test tube baby – all those bioethical thinkers and chin pullers like me were saying, “Oh, this is a big revolution in human affairs.” Now it’s just like your relative. So there are all these test tube babies. And big deal. They’re just babies and they’re in families. And families are not maybe exactly the same as they were, but the family as an institution hasn’t disappeared. It’s just evolved. People assimilate seemingly radical changes into the normal world. And then they often seem just like the way things have always been, even though they’re not.
Recorded on: 7/4/07
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