Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Randy McBee

Randy D. McBee is Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas Tech University.

His new book is Born to Be Wild: The Rise of the American Motorcyclist.

Recently I asked McBee about what he was reading. His reply:
I’m currently reading Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club by Sonny Barger and Keith Zimmerman. Barger was a founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club in 1957 and would go on to be president of the club for many years afterwards. Barger would attract considerable attention as a Hell's Angel and especially because of the prominent role he played in Hunter Thompson’s famous book, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. The book covers most of the post-World War II period and is as good as anything I’ve read about the Hell's Angels and the club’s role in shaping our understanding of so-called “outlaw” motorcycle clubs. I read this book when it was first published in 2001 but picked it up again after the shootings in Waco attracted national attention and as I tried to make sense of the media stereotypes of motorcyclists that have dominated headlines. Barger rarely directly confronts those stereotypes, but his take on the period, on the Hell's Angels, and on motorcycle clubs in general provides a much more complicated and nuanced look at these riders (and all riders) than what we’ve seen in the media over the last couple months.

I’ve also just started reading The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad For So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It by David Weil. Weil uses the term “fissured” to highlight the ways in which corporations, CEOs, and investors have fundamentally restructured employment, or as he puts it “shed activities deemed peripheral to their core business models,” including many of the workers that we as consumers interact with when we patronize those businesses. Weil effectively outlines a number of strategies corporations have used to accomplish this goal: subcontracting, outsourcing, franchising, and he has highlighted the ways in which these strategies have increased profits and reduced liability. Much of what Weil covers will be familiar to readers who have paid attention to corporate strategies over the past several decades But Weil’s look at the consequences of the fissured workplace and how it has destabilized work and contributed to the widening gap between pay and productivity is as thorough as any account of this shift, and Weil offers a number of interesting ideas to address the problem.
Learn more about Born to Be Wild at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Born to Be Wild.

--Marshal Zeringue