A persuasive meditation on how capitalism intersects with American nationalism in the making of race and class relations
Life in and against the Odds
Debts of Freedom and the Speculative Roots of U.S. Culture
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Somehow people continue to imagine a world of justice against the odds of a deck that has been stacked against them. In her urgent and perceptive book, Life in and against the Odds, Hoechst focuses on the particular circumstances and conditions of different phases of speculative expansion in the United States. She traces the roots of the nation-state to nineteenth-century land markets and slave exchanges. Hoechst also chronicles how these racial foundations extend through corporate capitalism from the 1920s and ´30s to the present era of financialized capitalism and the recent housing bubble.
Life in and against the Odds identifies where and how speculative nationalism creates roadblocks to freedom. Hoechst retells the history of the United States with a perspective on how human lives are made, destroyed, reconfigured, and claimed under the systemic violence of a nation that is rooted in the racializing futurity of speculative capitalism.
"There is something encyclopedic about not only the scope and scale of Life in and against the Odds, but also in its mode of writing. Hoechst has assembled a wide-ranging set of topics that span literary, cultural, intellectual, and social histories, and she does so in unexpected and counterintuitive ways that are by turns dazzling and dizzying. Confronting what she views as the prevailing logic of speculation that drives the narrative of U.S. national culture, Hoechst assembles an array of cultural objects for scrutiny that provide an archive that is both familiar and unsettling. Readers of this book will be challenged and compelled by Hoechst’s assemblage."
"Hoechst examines the growth and progression of speculative nationalism in the United States from pre-Revolutionary War to recent events.... [T]he collapse of the housing market is smartly examined as a prime example of the racial divide that we continue to inherit as a result of speculative nationalism.... The book adds to the discourse of American Studies, particularly to the racial and gender inequalities that have permeated the country historically and in present time."
"This book is about speculation, and the speculative. After noticing that the financial economy, having separated itself from the productive economy, has raised speculation (securities market operations) to a predominant economic level, it tries to link this to deep cultural aspects of US society. But it does so through commentary rather than by telling the story of the link."
"Hoechst is particularly interested in the connections between beliefs about future freedom and economics, especially regarding speculation. She argues that financial speculation has also been a central theme in U.S. history and that the continuities in U.S. culture can be better explained against this background. This is an ambitious project because of the long historical period it covers and the diversity of cultural sites it probes.... The book is a work of American studies scholarship, but its claims and framework should be of interest to historians."
Heidi Hoechst is an activist, scholar, and educator working in the United States labor movement. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.