Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism

Overview

The Midwest has always been the heart of America - both its economic bellwether and the repository of its national identity. Now, in a new, globalized age, the Midwest faces dire challenges to its economic viability, having suffered greatly before and as a result of the recent market collapse. In Caught in the Middle, veteran journalist Richard C. Longworth explores how globalization has battered the region and how some communities are confronting new realities. From vanished manufacturing jobs to the biofuels ...

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Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism

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Overview

The Midwest has always been the heart of America - both its economic bellwether and the repository of its national identity. Now, in a new, globalized age, the Midwest faces dire challenges to its economic viability, having suffered greatly before and as a result of the recent market collapse. In Caught in the Middle, veteran journalist Richard C. Longworth explores how globalization has battered the region and how some communities are confronting new realities. From vanished manufacturing jobs to the biofuels revolution, and from the school districts struggling with new immigrants to the Iowa meatpacking town that can't survive without them, Longworth surveys what's right and what's wrong in the heartland, and offers a tough prescription for survival.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Ex-Chicago Tribunecorrespondent Longworth (Global Squeeze) paints a bleak, evocative portrait of the Midwest's losing struggle with foreign competition and capitalist gigantism. It's a landscape of shuttered factories, desperate laid-off workers, family farms gobbled up by agribusiness, once great cities like Detroit and Cleveland now in ruins, small towns devolved into depopulated "rural slums" haunted by pensioners and meth-heads. But the harshest element of the book is Longworth's own pitiless ideology of globalism. In his telling, Midwesterners are sluggish, unskilled, risk-averse mediocrities, clinging to obsolete industrial-age dreams of job security, allergic to "change," indifferent to education and "totally unfit for the global age." They are doomed because global competition is unstoppable, says Longworth, who dismisses the idea of trade barriers as simplistic nonsense purveyed by conspiracy theorists. The silver linings Longworth floats-biotechnology, proposals for regional cooperation-are meager and iffy. The Midwest's real hope, he insists, lies in a massive influx of mostly low-wage immigrant workers and in enclaves of "the rich and brainy," like Chicago and Ann Arbor, where the "creative class" sells nebulous "information solutions" to "dropouts and Ph.D.s." It's not the Middle West that's under siege in Longworth's telling; it's the now apparently quaint notion of a middle class. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
Nearly three years after Thomas L. Friedman famously declared the world "flat," a former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent and native Iowan examines the Midwest's struggle with the new world economy. If the global age belongs to the spry and imaginative, then the American Heartland, sclerotic and dull, needs to beware. Once liberally dotted with neatly prosperous, iconic small towns-including Freeport, Minn., the model for much of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, and Eldon, Iowa, backdrop for Grant Wood's American Gothic-the region has suffered a four-decade decline from the shocks of the Japanese invasion of the 1980s, the deleterious effects of NAFTA and, now, the white-collar phase of globalization, where even service jobs evaporate. Urban centers like Detroit and Cleveland are all but dead, and St. Louis and Milwaukee are on life support. Relying on agricultural, industrial and census statistics, a variety of professional analyses and, most of all, on his lively reporting, Longworth (Global Squeeze: The Coming Crisis for First-World Nations, 1998) examines a region once dominant in manufacturing products and growing food, now grown tired and shabby, caught flat-footed in a flat world where money, jobs and ideas have no regard for borders. Having convincingly diagnosed the problem, even as much of the Midwest remains in denial, Longworth rejects "solutions" handed down from the national government (too clumsy) or up from city and state governments (too small). Instead, he argues that only the region itself, drawing on its acknowledged heritage and resources, can be both nimble and powerful enough to marshal the necessary financial and intellectual forces to compete successfully inthe global age. He calls for the creation of a Global Midwest Forum, the establishment of a high-speed train and a first-class digital-communication system, the founding of a regional journal with global coverage and the rethinking of the area's education system. He stresses the need for the Midwest to speak with one voice from its trade and investment offices and to open the door as widely as possible to immigration. A well-reported take on the Midwest's precarious economic, political and social condition, with a provocative prescription for its survival in the global world. Agent: Gary Morris/David Black Literary Agency
From the Publisher
“A passionate, probing and painfully honest book.”—Wall Street Journal

“Longworth’s book should be of interest even to those who have never come closer to America’s heartland than to change planes at O ’Hare. Almost any chapter of Caught in the Middle could generate a book’s worth of debate anywhere in this country.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596914131
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 12/26/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.73 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Now a fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Richard C. Longworth was an award-winning foreign correspondent and senior writer at the Chicago Tribune. His previous book, Global Squeeze, was lauded by Foreign Affairs as “an engrossing study of how advanced societies grapple with the disruptive forces of global markets.” Twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Longworth lives in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Caught in the Middle 5

2 The Midwest and the Globe 16

3 From Rust to Bust 26

4 Unplugged 43

5 Mega-Farmers 62

6 From Hometown to Slum 82

7 The New Midwesterners 101

8 New Blood for Cities 123

9 Global Chicago and Other Cities 144

10 Left Behind 168

11 Flunking Out 176

12 Betting the Farm 198

13 The Blue and the Red 221

14 Global Midwest 245

Epilogue 265

Postscript 269

Acknowledgments 276

Notes 279

Bibliography 299

Index 303

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