So You’re the Shanghai World’s Fair. That Don’t Impress Us Much


China recently played host to a number of hot and happening bloggers on the left, offering a kind of guided tour that differs as much as a safari from a zoo. Virginia Postrel gives us a hint as to why it’s more of a lure for influential American audiences than China’s big expo:

Compared to the much-derided commercialism of U.S. world’s fairs, the Shanghai exposition actually suffers from a paucity of consumer pleasures, instead emphasizing national pavilions. Segregated on the less-popular western side of the Huangpu, even the corporate pavilions tend toward state-directed infrastructure. Here the Expo betrays another reason Americans gave up on world’s fairs. Their vision of progress started to seem both socially obnoxious and empirically false.

Twentieth-century expositions increasingly embodied fashionable ideas of social planning. They came to stand for a controlled and predictable version of progress: the dream of a civilization built from scratch, designed — or at least rearranged — according to an expert ideal of order. Or as the Century of Progress motto put it, “Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.”

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Bet Thomas Friedman was oohing and aahing at every exhibit. “What vision! Such a future could be ours, too, if only……”

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