e-book Placing the Academy: Essays on Landscape, Work, and Identity

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Manufacturing moved steadily from the United States and Europe to East Asia and other regions with low labor costs. At the same time, men were being displaced by women in a labor market increasingly dominated by service industries, and low-skilled workers found themselves replaced by smart machines. Ultimately, these changes slowed the movement toward an increasingly open and liberal world order, which began to falter and soon reversed.

The final blows were the global financial crisis of —8 and the euro crisis that began in In both cases, policies crafted by elites produced huge recessions, high unemployment, and falling incomes for millions of ordinary workers. Since the United States and the EU were the leading exemplars of liberal democracy, these crises damaged the reputation of that system as a whole. Indeed, in recent years, the number of democracies has fallen, and democracy has retreated in virtually all regions of the.

Stacey Y. Richeson; and Francis Fukuyama. This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

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Placing the Academy: Essays on Landscape, Work, and Identity

In-depth analysis delivered weekly - Subscribe to our newsletter, featuring our editors' top picks from the past week. Sign in Subscribe. Subscribe Login Sign up. Foreign Policy. Today, the fruits of her labor have been replaced with the suction of her vacuum.

Something Truly American

They were rarely ever home, so I saw their remnants: the lightly crinkled New York Times sprawled on the kitchen table, the overturned, half-opened books in their overflowing personal library, the TV consistently left on the National Geographic channel. I took these remnants as a celebrity-endorsed path to prosperity. I began to check out books from the school library and started reading the news religiously.

Their home was a sanctuary for my dreams. It was there I, as a glasses-wearing computer nerd, read about a mythical place called Silicon Valley in Bloomberg Businessweek magazines. It was there, as a son of immigrants, that I read about a young senator named Barack Obama, the child of an immigrant, aspiring to be the president of the United States. The life that I saw through their home showed me that an immigrant could succeed in America, too.

It impressed on me a sort of social capital that I knew could be used in America. Ultimately, the suction of the vacuum is what sustains my family. The squeal of her vacuum reminds me why I have the opportunity to drive my squealing car to school. I am where I am today because my mom put an enormous amount of labor into the formula of the American Dream.


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Someday, I hope my diploma can hold up the framework of hers. When it comes to service workers, as a society we completely disregard the manners instilled in us as toddlers. For seventeen years, I have awoken to those workers, to clinking silverware rolled in cloth and porcelain plates removed from the oven in preparation for breakfast service. I memorized the geometry of place mats slid on metal trays, coffee cups turned downward, dirtied cloth napkins disposed on dining tables. I knew never to wear pajamas outside in the public courtyard, and years of shushing from my mother informed me not to speak loudly in front of a guest room window.

I grew up in the swaddled cacophony of morning chatter between tourists, professors, and videographers. I grew up conditioned in excessive politeness, fitted for making small talk with strangers. I grew up in a bed and breakfast , in the sticky thickness of the hospitality industry.

‘Slowly, my mother’s gingham apron began to look more like metal armor.’

And for a very long time I hated it. I was late to my own fifth birthday party in the park because a guest arrived five hours late without apology. Following a weeklong stay in which someone specially requested her room be cleaned twice a day, not once did she leave a tip for housekeeping. Small-business scammers came for a stop at the inn several times. Guests stained sheets, clogged toilets, locked themselves out of their rooms, and then demanded a discount. There exists between service workers and their customers an inherent imbalance of power: We meet sneers with apologies.

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At the end of their meal, or stay, or drink, we let patrons determine how much effort their server put into their job. For most of my life I believed my parents were intense masochists for devoting their existences to the least thankful business I know: the very business that taught me how to discern imbalances of power. Soon I recognized this stem of injustice in all sorts of everyday interactions. I became passionate. Sometimes enraged.


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I stumbled upon nonprofits, foundations, and political campaigns. I devoted my time to the raw grit of helping people, and in the process I fell irrevocably in love with a new type of service: public service.

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At the same time, I worked midnight Black Friday retail shifts and scraped vomit off linoleum. When I brought home my first W-2, I had never seen my parents so proud. The truth, I recently learned, was that not all service is created equal. Seeing guests scream at my parents over a late airport taxi still sickens me even as I spend hours a week as a volunteer.

But I was taught all work is noble, especially the work we do for others. I envied their ability to wear the role of self-assured host like a second skin, capable of tolerating any type of cruelty with a smile. I realized that learning to serve people looks a lot like learning to trust them. I had never had a computer of my own before, and to me the prospect symbolized a world of new possibilities. I was the only student from my public middle school I knew to ever go to an elite boarding school, and it felt like being invited into a selective club. My first week at Andover, dazed by its glamour and newness, I fought my way to the financial aid office to pick up the laptop; I sent my mom a photo of me grinning and clutching the cardboard box.

Back in my dorm room, I pulled out my prize, a heavy but functional Dell, and marveled at its sleek edges, its astonishing speed. But the love story of my laptop came clamoring to a halt. In the library, as I stumbled to negotiate a space to fit in, I watched my friends each pull out a MacBook.

‘The professors’ home was a telescope to how the other (more affluent) half lived’

Each was paper-thin and seemingly weightless. And mine, heavy enough to hurt my back and constantly sighing like a tired dog, was distinctly out of place. My laptop, which I had thought was my ticket to the elite world of Andover, actually gave me away as the outsider I was. For a long time, this was the crux of my Andover experience: always an outsider. When I hung out with wealthier friends, I was disoriented by how different their lives were from mine. While they spent summers in Prague or Paris, I spent mine mining the constellation of thrift stores around New Haven.

The gap between full-scholarship and full-pay felt insurmountable. But I also felt like an outsider going to meetings for the full-scholarship affinity group.

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My parents attended college and grew up wealthier than I did, giving me cultural capital many of my full-scholarship friends never had access to. At home, I grew up middle class, then became the privileged prep school girl. But at Andover, suddenly, I was poor. Trying to reconcile these conflicting identities, I realized how complex and mutable class is. When I managed to borrow a slim Mac from my school, I felt the walls around me reorient. Instead, I felt a new anxiety: I worried when I sat in the magnificent dining hall with my beautiful computer that I had lost an important part of my identity.