Bethlehem: American Utopia, American Tragedy

Bethlehem: American Utopia, American Tragedy | Seth Moglen

Seth Moglen
Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of the South Side Initiative, Lehigh University; Member (2009–10), School of Social Science
April 28, 2010

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was founded in the 1740s as a utopian religious community. At the turn of the twentieth century, it became one of the iconic steel towns of industrial America, a destination for working-class immigrants and the producer of steel for a century of skyscrapers and battleships. At the turn of the twenty-first century, it underwent the familiar fate of deindustrialization, as steel production came to an end. Today, a casino has been built on the ruins of the Bethlehem Steel site, as the city seeks to remake itself as a tourist and entertainment destination. In its three main phases, Bethlehem stands as a microcosm of America itself, revealing salient features of the nation’s development. In this talk to the Friends of the Institute for Advanced Study, Seth Moglen discusses the structures of power that have shaped the city of Bethlehem as well as the aspirations that have emerged in response to them. A member of the 2009–10 School of Social Science Dewey Seminar on education, schools, and the state, Moglen also argues that universities have a distinctive role to play as engines of democracy in postindustrial America.