How ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Seized on an Urbanizing America’s Nostalgia for the Small Town

As mid-century Americans moved to cities, Cara’s film helped to idealize isolated white communities. It’s a Wonderful Life can be read through multiple prisms—as a Christmas movie, a family movie, a love story, an existential journey, and a celebration of the everyman. But Frank Capra’s movie invites audiences to consider it, first and foremost, as a[…]

Frank Capra’s Formula for Taming American Capitalism

It’s a Wonderful Life prescribed community and empathy as the remedy to a callous economic system. From the Gilded Age and until well into the Great Depression, Americans engaged in one of the most consequential debates in the country’s history: how best to address the economic inequities and societal problems stemming from industrialization, and relatedly,[…]

Get Thee to a Phalanstery: or, How Fourier Can Still Teach Us to Make Lemonade

Hot on the heels of the French revolution — by way of extravagant orgies, obscure taxonomies, and lemonade seas — Charles Fourier offered up his blueprint for a socialist utopia, and in the process also one of the most influential early critiques of capitalism. This explores Fourier’s radical, bizarre, and often astonishingly modern ideas, and[…]

Socialism and the Vampire: Comrades, Capitalists, and Bloodsuckers

Vampire fiction as class allegory predates Dracula. In May 1897 Constable and Co published a limited print run of a new novel by a London-based Irish theatre manager and occasional author named Bram Stoker.  Stoker had enjoyed moderate critical recognition with a series of overly-sentimental pot-boilers and ghoulish short stories over the course of the[…]

The Midwest Farmers Movement That Challenged Gilded Age Capitalism

In the 19th century, the Grange was an agricultural brotherhood that sought to foster mutual self-reliance and free themselves from middlemen and monopolies. Perhaps you’ve seen them on a leisurely weekend drive through the countryside—small white structures with the sign “Grange Hall.” Although the Grange is now a mere shadow of its former self, its[…]