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California's Silicon Valley, famous for its innovative high-technology corporations, makes an ideal laboratory for exploring certain cultural inventions. It is a bellwether for a particular kind of social order—one dominated by work. In anthropology we encounter many frameworks through which life is organized—kinship, religion, and politics. Work is another lens through which life can be filtered. People may move to California for the weather, but they go to Silicon Valley to work. High-technology work draws on a global pool of talent and shifting skills that creates a culturally complex community. Migrants to Silicon Valley bring and enact an image of a place to do cutting-edge work. Leaders and pundits in the region consciously market the idea that the Valley can reinvent itself to continue to dominate its distinctive economic niche. Out of this reinvention a novel version of the company town has emerged, a twenty-first century reworking of a community where work penetrates and dominates the lives of its inhabitants.


Reprinted from Futures, Vol 32, by Jan English-Lueck, Silicon Valley Reinvents the Company Town, 759-766, Copyright 2000, with permission from Elsevier. The published version of the article can be found online at:

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