Frank, Thomas 1965- (Thomas C. Frank, Tom Frank)
Frank, Thomas 1965- (Thomas C. Frank, Tom Frank)
Home—Washington, DC. Office—P.O. Box 5912, Washington, DC 20016.
Writer and editor. Baffler (journal), Chicago, IL, founder, 1988, editor (with others). Has appeared on numerous television shows, including Real Time with Bill Maher, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and the Daily Show.
Lannan Foundation Fellowship, 2004.
(Editor, with Matt Weiland) Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler, Norton (New York, NY), 1997.
The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
One Market under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
New Consensus for Old: Cultural Studies from Left to Right, Prickly Paradigm Press (Chicago, IL), 2002.
(Editor, with David Mulcahey) Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy, Norton (New York, NY), 2003.
What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, Metropolitan (New York, NY), 2004, published in England as What's the Matter with America? The Resistible Rise of the American Right, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 2004.
Contributor to the periodicals, including the Baffler.
With others, Thomas Frank founded the journal the Baffler, a critique of pop culture. Frank has edited the publication and has contributed essays to the Baffler. He is "perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment, and certainly the most malcontent," wrote Gerald Marzorati in the New York Times Book Review. Bill Katz, discussing the Baffler in the Library Journal, commented that the journal is "a genuine rebel" compared to more mainstream publications. In 1997 Frank and Matt Weiland edited a selection of essays from the Baffler, Commodify Your Dis-sent: Salvos from the Baffler. The collection is a "snarky, rude, and well-targeted analysis of the culture industry," wrote Ana Marie Cox in Mother Jones.
In 1997 Frank's The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism was published. An extended version of Frank's graduate thesis, The Conquest of Cool chronicles the close ties between advertising and the counterculture in recent years. Frank argues that since the 1960s, the advertising industry has successfully used the image of a rebellious counterculture to promote the consumption of goods. The author notes the early success of the Volkswagen Beetle advertisements, whose understatement contrasted sharply with the hype common in automobile advertising from the 1950s and early 1960s. Frank claims that ads in more recent decades have used rebellion in sales pitches, touting "new" and "different" products to appeal to consumers wishing to be unique.
Reviewing The Conquest of Cool in the New York Times Book Review, Gerald Marzorati found Frank's treatment of 1960s counterculture narrow and cliched. Booklist contributor David Rouse, however, observed that "the many examples Frank uses to bolster his case make for a fascinating flashback." A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that The Conquest of Cool "is frequently brilliant, an indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer."
In his next book, One Market under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy, the author examines the central tenet of the New Economy, namely that free-market societies are the best interest of the most people. Frank presents his case that the idea is fatally flawed. He examines how an overreliance on the idea that "market populism," that is, the theory that markets are more democratic than the best of democratic government, may lead to a society and a world that are far from democratic in their fundamental nature. The author begins by tracing the origins and evolution of market populism and goes on to see how it has been applied to the detriment of the average man and woman in the modern business and political worlds. "Thomas Frank's razor sharp analysis, caustic commentary and biting wit expose the fallacies of this new faith," wrote Stephen Williams in African Business, adding later in the same review: "This is a picture of capitalism gone mad, its agenda sold to the people with the language of democracy." Writing in Worldlink, Joanna Gajewski noted that the author's "style is at times witty, and his premise enlightening." Frank is coeditor with David Mulcahey of Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy, which presents fifteen previously published essays from the Baffler. The articles focus primarily on the modern economy and who benefits and who does not. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the collection "a powerful study of the contemporary American experience."
What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, published in England as What's the Matter with America? The Resistible Rise of the American Right, was called "fresh and engaging" by Foreign Affairs contributor Walter Russell Mead. This time the author looks at why, in his opinion, so many middle-class Americans vote against their economic and social interests by voting for the Republican party candidates. Focusing on Kansas, where he grew up, Frank writes about how a state once known for it radicalism has become an eager supporter of the right in the culture wars and a strong supporter of conservatism, which was once considered the political realm of the privileged class.
"With a political analysis that would do any of the classical Marxist writers proud, Frank examines the real reasons for the current right-wing domination of ‘middle America,’ using a firmly class-based approach that is grounded in considerable research and statistics as well as personal and anecdotal evidence," wrote Owen Williamson in a review on the Political Affairs Web site. "His use of humor and storytelling lightens up what could otherwise be a heavy sociological tome, yet the political punch of his writing almost never lets up throughout the book."
As the author follows the history of Kansas's political leanings, he points out that liberal populism once thrived in a state where the needs of big business were regularly ignored as the citizens voted for farmers' and workers' rights. He then traces the overwhelming change in Kansas politics beginning in 1991 with a cultural grassroots movement headed by conservatives focusing on anti-abortion efforts. A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to What's the Matter with Kansas? as "a bracing, unabashedly partisan, and very smart work of red-state trendspotting." Writing in the Nation, George Scialabba commented that Frank "has turned his quarrel with his home state into a brilliant book, one of the best so far this decade on American politics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African Business, June, 2001, Stephen Williams, review of One Market under God: Extreme Capitalism,Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy, p. 49.
American Prospect, December 18, 2000, Michael King, review of One Market under God, p. 40; October, 2004, Ronald Brownstein, "Vexations of the Heartland," review of What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, p. 39.
Believer, August, 2004, Margaret Wappler, "Thomas Frank," interview with author.
Booklist, November 15, 1997, David Rouse, review of The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, p. 528; November 15, 2000, David Rouse, review of One Market under God, p. 591; August, 2003, Mary Whaley, review of Boob Jubilee: The Cultural Politics of the New Economy, p. 1936.
Campaigns & Elections, September, 2004, David Mark, "A Son of Kansas Calls Home State Politically Misguided," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 45.
City Journal (New York, NY), autumn, 2004, review of What's the Matter with Kansas?
Commentary, November, 2004, Jonathan Kay, "Seeing Red," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 79.
Commonweal, February 27, 1998, review of The Conquest of Cool, pp. 26-29.
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, March, 2005, James Nuechterlein, "What's Right with Kansas," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 10.
Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2004, Walter Russell Mead, review of What's the Matter with Kansas?
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, March 1, 2005, Don Gorton, "How the Heartland Was Lost," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of Boob Jubilee, p. 844; April 15, 2004, review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 375.
Library Journal, April 15, 1991, Bill Katz, "The Baffler: The Journal That Blunts the Cutting Edge," p. 51.
Mother Jones, January-February, 1998, Ana Marie Cox, review of Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler, p. 72.
Nation, June 14, 2004, George Scialabba, "How the Other Half Votes," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 50.
National Review, June 28, 2004, Richard Nadler, "Coup in the Heartland?," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 48.
New York Times Book Review, November 30, 1997, Gerald Marzorati, review of The Conquest of Cool, p. 26.
Observer (London, England), September 12, 2004, Nick Cohen, review of What's the Matter with America? The Resistible Rise of the American Right.
Publishers Weekly, October 6, 1997, review of The Conquest of Cool, p. 64; October 30, 2000, review of One Market under God, p. 58; June 9, 2003, review of Boob Jubilee, p. 45.
Reason, March, 2005, Jesse Walker, "The Fever Swamps of Kansas: A Leftist Tries to Make Sense of Grassroots Conservatism," review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, p. 59.
Washington Monthly, March, 2001, James K. Galbraith, review of One Market under God, p. 49.
WorldLink, March 1, 2001, Joanna Gajewski, "Bull Market," review of One Market under God, p. 84.
Flak Magazine,http://www.flakmag.com/ (December 1, 2000), Sean O'Neill, review of One Market under God.
History News Network,http://hnn.us/ (July 26, 2004), Jonathan Rees, review of What's the Matter with Kansas?
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (April 3, 2008), information on author's television appearances.
Media Channel,http://www.mediachannel.org/ (February 9, 2000), Casey Walker, "Voice in the Neon Wilderness," interview with author.
Political Affairs,http://www.politicalaffairs.net/ (April 3, 2008), Owen Williamson, review of What's the Matter with Kansas?
Thomas Frank Home Page,http://www.tcfrank.com (April 3, 2008).