Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy

Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Idea of the Idea Economy

by Alex Cummings

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Beginning in the 1950s, a group of academics, businesspeople, and politicians set out on an ambitious project to remake North Carolina’s low-wage economy. They pitched the universities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill as the kernel of a tech hub, Research Triangle Park, which would lure a new class of highly educated workers. In the process, they created a blueprint for what would become known as the knowledge economy: a future built on intellectual labor and the production of intellectual property.

In Brain Magnet, Alex Sayf Cummings reveals the significance of Research Triangle Park to the emergence of the high-tech economy in a postindustrial United States. She analyzes the use of ideas of culture and creativity to fuel economic development, how workers experienced life in the Triangle, and the role of the federal government in bringing the modern technology industry into being. As Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill were transformed by high-tech development, the old South gave way to a distinctly new one, which welded the intellectual power of universities to a vision of the suburban good life. Cummings pinpoints how the story of the Research Triangle sheds new light on the origins of today’s urban landscape, in which innovation, as exemplified by the tech industry, is lauded as the engine of economic growth against a backdrop of gentrification and inequality. Placing the knowledge economy in a broader cultural and intellectual context, Brain Magnet offers vital insight into how tech-driven development occurs and the people and places left in its wake.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231545747
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 04/28/2020
Series: Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 10 MB

About the Author

Alex Sayf Cummings is associate professor of history at Georgia State University. She is the author of Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century (2013).

Table of Contents

Preface: RTP Donuts
Introduction: From Textiles and Tobacco to the City of Ideas
1. Imagining the Triangle: The Unlikely Origins of the Creative City in the Cold War South
2. “Not a Second Ruhr”: Building a Postindustrial Economy in the 1960s
3. Welcome to Parkwood: Newcomers Find Their Way in the Emerging Triangle
Interlude: Sweet Gums, Traffic Jams, and Cilantro
4. “The Greatest Concentration of PhDs in the Country”: The Idea Economy Comes of Age in the Triangle
5. Cary, SAS, and the Search for the Good Life
Interlude: The Islamic School in Parkwood
6. “We Think a Lot”: The Triangle in the Age of Gentrification
Epilogue: The Figure of the Knowledge Worker

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