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She is best known for her two non-fiction books, The Future and Its Enemies and The Substance of Style. In the former she explains her philosophy, "dynamism", a forward-looking and change-seeking philosophy that generally favors unregulated organization through "spontaneous order". She contrasts it with "stasis", a philosophy that favors top-down control and regulation and is marked by desire to maintain the present state of affairs.
Virginia Postrel was editor of Reason from July 1989 to January 2000, and remained on the masthead as editor-at-large through 2001. Prior to that, she was a reporter for Inc. and the Wall Street Journal. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). From 2000 to 2006, she wrote an economics column for the New York Times and from 2006 to 2009 she wrote the "Commerce and Culture" column for "The Atlantic". (She also appeared on the last episode of the third season of Penn and Teller's Bullshit!.)
Health care, bioethics, and aesthetics
Postrel has written several articles on health care and bioethics, including accounts of her own experiences.
In March 2006 Postrel donated a kidney to an acquaintance, writer Sally Satel. She has recounted the experience, and referred to it in several subsequent articles and blog posts—many of which are critical of legal prohibitions against compensating organ donors. In some of these pieces she discusses strategies for working around these restrictions, such as organ donor transplant chains.
In her March 2009 article "My Drug Problem" in The Atlantic, Postrel wrote about her own experience of being treated for breast cancer with the expensive drug Herceptin. She questioned if such a costly treatment would be available to others and if the risky research that makes such innovative treatments possible would be profitable under proposed health care reforms in the United States.
Postrel has also referred to her experience as a cancer patient in her writing about the importance of design aesthetics in hospitals, and the competitive forces that drive them to create more attractive environments for patients. This ties into the thesis of her second book—that beauty is more than simply a superficial, frivolous trait, and can go more than skin deep. Notions of beauty and desirability—and thoughts on what makes good design good beyond the needs of sound engineering—inform her work at the "Deep Glamour" blog.
- The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, Free Press, (December 1, 1998) (ISBN 0-684-86269-7)
- The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness, HarperCollins, September 2003 (ISBN 0-06-018632-1)
- Postrel's website
- Deep Glamour Blog
- Podcast featuring Postrel Postrel discusses style (and organ donations) on EconTalk.
- 2004 TEDTalk "The power of glamour" TED Conference
- Video discussion/dialogue with Virginia Postrel and Dan Drezner on Bloggingheads.tv
- Interview featuring Postrel on Reason.tv
- [http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=virginia+postrel&aq=f Videos featuring Postrel on Youtube.com
- "Who's Afraid of Virginia Postrel?" by Justin Raimondo
- Booknotes interview with Postrel on Future and Its Enemies, February 14, 1999.
- Virginia Postrel articles at Byliner