“The promise of Janesville has been the promise of America” – Senator Barack Obama, February 2008
The best business book of the year 2017 nominated by Financial Times and McKinsey. Amy Goldstein, the author of the book, has taken a deep dive into the community of Janesville, Wisconsin after General Motors has closed its oldest and the longest operating car factory in the United States. The factory and a whole city which made a huge contribution when, during World War II, it switched its assembly line from trucks to artillery shells.
In June 2008, when the announcement was made that General Motors is going to shut down production, the unemployment rate in the region was around 5.4%. In March 2009, a few months after the last of the jobs have disappeared, the unemployment rate has reached over 30%.
And this is a main backdrop of the history told in the book. A gripping and poignant story of what happens when the largest employer in a region shuts down its factory. The book documents what this huge recession has done on different layers of the local community, nevertheless, it’s not a story of a progressive erosion, but what one-off crisis has done.
In data, the largest proportion of the jobs has disappeared were in the manufacturing sector. A lot of the jobs, that were lost, were paid pretty well and did not require any higher education to get. More men then women lost their jobs. All the aforementioned characteristics are crucial and have made this crisis so profound.
The whole book is a combination of life stories and macro analysis showing faiths and current struggles of America’s working class. It describes, in revealing details, what happens when economic disaster strikes community and makes a severe impact on family lives and relationships in a whole city. It depicts limitations of retraining programs (launched after the factory was closed), social services and political divisions. Moreover, the book is a profound analysis of different intersections of politics, policy, life expectations and identity.
Janesville: An American Story
by Amy Goldstein
Complexity of ideas
Size: 368 pages
Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33665908-janesville