February 28, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
On April 5th, 2000, President William Clinton stepped to the microphone at the White House Conference on the New Economy and told those gathered that the United States was experiencing “an economic transformation as profound as that that led us into the industrial revolution.” The 1990s was a heady moment for chatter about technological change, especially around personal computers and the Internet. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates predicted Business @ the Speed of Thought, as one of his book titles put it, and Wired writer Kevin Kelly argued that the Internet would lead to the dematerialization of the economy. This “irrational exuberance” would eventually end in the dot com bust, but not before members of the Clinton administration used projections around “the New Economy” to justify a number of decisions that would have far-reaching ramifications, including policies around telecommunications, labor and trade, education and training, student loans, and economic, racial, and gender inequality.
In this talk, Lee Vinsel will build on recent work on the history of the Clinton White House and political economy, including Margaret O’Mara’s The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America and Nelson Lichtenstein and Judith Stein’s forthcoming, A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism. Vinsel will ask what can be gained for this literature by focusing on technology, both the actual material change taking place in the 1990s and, perhaps most importantly, the ideas and fantasies surrounding the concept “technology,” which greatly outpaced reality.
Lee Vinsel is Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Virginia Tech.
Sponsored by the IHC’s Machines, People, and Politics Research Focus Group