The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture by Paul A. Cantor
Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 1 Critic Review

Mr. Cantor just about convinces you of the importance of men like Ulmer—or at least makes you want to Netflix the director's "Detour"...
-WSJ online


Popular culture often champions freedom as the fundamentally American way of life and celebrates the virtues of independence and self-reliance. But film and television have also explored the tension between freedom and other core values, such as order and political stability. What may look like healthy, productive, and creative freedom from one point of view may look like chaos, anarchy, and a source of destructive conflict from another. Film and television continually pose the question: Can Americans deal with their problems on their own, or must they rely on political elites to manage their lives?

In this groundbreaking work, Paul A. Cantor explores the ways in which television shows such as Star Trek, The X-Files, South Park, and Deadwood and films such as The Aviator and Mars Attacks! have portrayed both top-down and bottom-up models of order. Drawing on the works of John Locke, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, and other proponents of freedom, Cantor contrasts the classical liberal vision of America -- particularly its emphasis on the virtues of spontaneous order -- with the Marxist understanding of the "culture industry" and the Hobbesian model of absolute state control.

The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture concludes with a discussion of the impact of 9/11 on film and television, and the new anxieties emerging in contemporary alien-invasion narratives: the fear of a global technocracy that seeks to destroy the nuclear family, religious faith, local government, and other traditional bulwarks against the absolute state.


About Paul A. Cantor

See more books from this Author
Paul A. Cantor is Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English at the University of Virginia. Among his wide-ranging and acclaimed writings on film and television, Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2001 by the Los Angeles Times.
Published November 1, 2012 by The University Press of Kentucky. 488 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture
All: 1 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 0

WSJ online

Reviewed by Sonny Bunch on Nov 25 2012

Mr. Cantor just about convinces you of the importance of men like Ulmer—or at least makes you want to Netflix the director's "Detour"...

Read Full Review of The Invisible Hand in Popular... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Reader Rating for The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture

An aggregated and normalized score based on 6 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review