Virtual Event: Alec MacGillis
Winning and Losing in One-Click America
in conversation with RENÉE LOTH
March 18, 2021
7:00 PM ET
Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes ALEC MACGILLIS—senior reporter for ProPublica and author of The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell—for a discussion of his latest book, Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America. He will be joined in conversation by journalist RENÉE LOTH, opinion columnist for The Boston Globe.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Fulfillment on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repetitive and sometimes dangerous assembly line labor. Eighty-three years later, the market capitalization of Amazon.com has exceeded one trillion dollars, while the value of the Ford Motor Company hovers around thirty billion. We have, it seems, entered the age of one-click America—and as the coronavirus makes Americans more dependent on online shopping, its sway will only intensify.
Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centers, and corporate campuses epitomizes a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unraveling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated.
Ranging across the country, MacGillis tells the stories of those who’ve thrived and struggled to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. In Seattle, high-paid workers in new office towers displace a historic black neighborhood. In suburban Virginia, homeowners try to protect their neighborhood from the environmental impact of a new data center. Meanwhile, in El Paso, small office supply firms seek to weather Amazon’s takeover of government procurement, and in Baltimore a warehouse supplants a fabled steel plant. Fulfillment also shows how Amazon has become a force in Washington, D.C., ushering readers through a revolving door for lobbyists and government contractors and into CEO Jeff Bezos’s lavish Kalorama mansion.
With empathy and breadth, MacGillis demonstrates the hidden human costs of the other inequality—not the growing gap between rich and poor, but the gap between the country’s winning and losing regions. The result is an intimate account of contemporary capitalism: its drive to innovate, its dark, pitiless magic, its remaking of America with every click.
Praise for Fulfillment
“Fulfillment is journalism at its very best: a powerful panoramic account of America’s skyrocketing inequality across people and places. Drawing on both big-picture economics and his own brilliant reporting, Alec MacGillis tells the gripping story of Amazon’s meteoric rise, the economic and political elites who’ve profited from it, and the ordinary citizens who’ve too often borne its costs.” —Jacob Hacker, professor at Yale University and coauthor of Let Them Eat Tweets
“Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote that all work has dignity if it pays an adequate wage. Alec MacGillis explains why some of America’s richest people and largest corporations don’t seem to care. He has an uncanny ability to weave together the stories of those whose fortunes are soaring with the stories of those whose lives are falling into hopelessness.” —Sherrod Brown, U.S. Senator from Ohio and author of Desk 88
“Alec MacGillis is one of the very best reporters in America. By always going his own way, he finds stories and truths that others avoid. Fulfillment paints a devastating picture of Amazon, but it also gives human voices to the larger story of our unequal economy and society. Fulfillment is an essential book in the literature of America’s self-destruction.” —George Packer, staff writer at The Atlantic and author of Our Man
Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.
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