The Role of Generalists in a Hyper-Specialist Society

Released: Nov. 12, 2009.

James Howard Kunstler speaks about the role of generalists in a world of hyper specialists. Although hyper-specialists are experts in their narrow fields, their work is often disregardful of the larger picture. Traffic engineers, for example, can move huge numbers of cars extremely efficiently, using fine-tuned formulas for curve ratios and grades, but their final product often makes downtowns un-walkable for pedestrians. Econometric models are only a substitute for reality that tend to produce a failure of perception and therefore a failure in our ability to act in the face of the things that happen to us. A sense of hyper-individualism in U.S. culture is another obstacle that stands in the way of thinking about our society and its problems in general terms. At the close of the show, a listener shares his thoughts on the vibrant center city of Philadelphia.


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This week’s sponsor is Chelsea Green, publisher of Waiting on a Train by James McCommons, with forward by James Howard Kunstler. Waiting on a Train is a critical look at the embattled future of passenger rail service, told by a journalist who spent one year traveling across America by train in 2008. Look for Waiting on a Train at your local bookstore, or visit:

Additional support for this program comes from Audible. For a free audiobook download, visit: