I saw this reviewed on the digital reader board, and despite the generally disparaging comments, I decided to give it a try because the idea that we are undergoing some sort of sociological shift because of the massive expansion of information technology in our everyday lives certainly seems real and insufficiently explored. My interest is from a political perspective. Why if, regardless of where you fit on the ideological spectrum -- Bircher or Marxist -- everyone feels that things are getting worse people don't rise up and effect change? At other times in our history we have. My suspicion is that it has to do with the hypnotic nature of the new digital technology. Unfortunately no deep analysis is offered in Conley's book. It is mostly a glib, superficial -- and now, at six years old, dated -- statement of pity for the poor 1% and their distracted, overachieving, work-addicted lives. Some big red flags wave to the reader that we're dealing with an apologist for the plutocracy: 1) labor unions and the benefits they negotiated destroyed the U.S. auto industry (why didn't unionization destroy German car manufacturers?) and 2) the poor in the U.S. really don't have much to carp about because they are not as poor as the poor in Africa. Conley is like his NYU colleague Todd Gitlin, a cardboard liberal Dr. Pangloss who owes his perch at a prestigious university thanks to an ability to rationalize the perversions of the status quo as the best of all possible worlds.
Before reading this book a disclaimer should be required: the author is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Many questionable numbers of originated with that outfit, and the emeritus fellow there, Martin Feldstein from Harvard, was a director at the largest financial fraud operations over the past decade or so: HCA, Eli Lilly and most recently, AIG's Financial Products [you know, those TARP funds to AIG so that Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley didn't go belly up!].
To summarize: Dalton Conley attempts to coin a new phrase and describe our technologically-addicted modern lives, but doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know. Readers should look elsewhere for a more cogent assessment of our Twitter/Blackberry/Facebook era.
Dalton Conley tries to hang his hat on the premise that our modern age has birthed a portable workplace, a frantic mix of work and personal lifestyles and a transformation of the traditional American nuclear family. While that part of his efforts is intriguing (i.e.: his contrast of a 1950s family getting ready for the workday versus a 2009 family), his term "Elsewhere" seems a transparent attempt to make his name by coining a new term (that this reader noticed hasn't caught on). He seems bent on regurgitating a similar argument throughout his book.
I actually stopped reading "Elsewhere" at a section where Conley describes meeting a travelling buddy of his from college. His former fellow Jack Kerouac aficionado now waits tables. Conley describes boasting about his own children, wife and books with his friend as he gets progressively more uncomfortable. At this point, I abandoned the book because Conley revealed, in my opinion, that he is classist towards his old friend, whose only faults are that he has a lower income and is single.
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