Empire of the Stunned

Social critic James Howard Kunstler believes that what killed America’s economy could make society stronger


| January-February 2010



Empire Stunned

image of James Howard Kunstler

This article is part of a package on rethinking the economy and how to prosper in the wake of the recession. For more, read Get Rich Now Work Plan , and We Are All Madoffs .

James Howard Kunstler is one madly engaging provocateur. For proof, all one needs to do is click over to his blog Clusterfuck Nation (www.kunstler.com), where the Rolling Stone editor-turned-full-time novelist and nonfiction author riffs on America’s operatic decline in fiery dispatches with titles like “Self-Jiving Nation” and “Marching Toward Zombieland.”

A proponent of the pedestrian-loving New Urbanism movement, Kunstler made an impression on the chattering classes in 1994 with his no-holds-barred history of suburbia, The Geography of Nowhere. The social critic made the talk show circuit rounds again in 2005 with The Long Emergency, where he linked peak oil to the need for localization and a more agrarian--friendly society.

Before conducting an extensive interview with Kunstler, writer Leslee Goodman admits that at one point she avoided reading The Long Emergency for fear that it would be incapacitating. What she found instead was that the book, while it is harsh, is both helpful and fortifying “in the ways that a weather report is helpful.”

“Kunstler isn’t an advocate for his forecast,” she says. “He’s just telling us to wear a raincoat. And maybe buy a boat.”

The Editors