IN PRAISE OF HARD INDUSTRIES by Eamonn Fingleton

IN PRAISE OF HARD INDUSTRIES

Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity

KIRKUS REVIEW

An economic polemic arguing that the information age is an overblown phenomenon. Fingleton, who has written previously about Japan’s manufacturing culture (Blindside, 1995), this time explores the hidden failure of American nonmanufacturing industries (using Japan as his major foil). Singly and in aggregate, the author discounts the apparent successes of the computer software, finance, and entertainment industries, among others. In comparison, he claims, traditional manufacturing industries, such as automobiles and steel, may have weaknesses, but their potential has been unfairly overlooked. Fingleton’s main point is simple: manufacturing is an efficient generator of jobs, income, and export wealth. Look at the success of postwar Japan, he invites us, excusing its economic travails of the 1990s as exaggerated by Western powers. Whatever the merits of this argument, they are wounded by Fingleton’s unrelenting attack on “postindustrialists,” modern bogeymen who tout the wonder of the information economy while ignoring the rusting industries of the past. These demons include named sources—individual economists, futurists, and publications like the Economist and the Wall Street Journal—and amorphous groups such as the media, depicted as dupes and fawning supporters of the postindustrialist mantra. The press, for example, is blamed for portraying manufacturing as a “consistently dull activity worthy only of self-evident second-raters.” The author has credible ideas and offers reasonable descriptions of economic activity, yet readers may have difficulty believing someone whose political biases are so flagrantly exhibited. For example, Fingleton’s complaint that powerful Microsoft and other software companies are guilty of “exclusionist hiring” seems merely bizarre when we discover that what he means is, these firms insist on hiring very smart people (“workers of average intelligence need not apply”). At the end, the author reveals his hidden agenda: the need to resurrect tariffs, because “good fences make good neighbors.” Fingleton’s novel promotion of the value of manufacturing is crippled by unbalanced coverage and patronizing insults.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-89968-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999




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