Philip G. Cerny


What’s on my mind

Cover Interview of December 20, 2011

My Rutgers-Newark colleague Frank Fischer sent me a couple of articles from the New York Times issue of November 14, 2011.  They are about the bitterness of the current generation as common aspirations built up in the Postwar Era are dashed by crisis and also about the spread of the “Occupy” protests to college campuses.

All this reminds me of something I thought about quite a lot in the 1970s when I taught, among other things, American Politics and The Political Economy of American Foreign Policy at the University of York—reading William Appleman Williams’s The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, etc.

How can America adapt to the end of the frontier, ideologically, materially, politically, socially?  The quasi-reality of the 17th to the 19th century, turned into myth in the 20th, was that there were empty lands (except for those pesky Indian savages), limitless natural resources, an endless supply of highly individually motivated immigrant and post-immigrant entrepreneurs and workers, and expanding markets everywhere.

This perception was compounded and spread beyond the US to Europe, Japan and elsewhere by the myth of the Post- World War II generation and the 1950s, which even Robert Reich succumbs to in his book Supercapitalism.

In a globalizing world, however, that is clearly no longer true.