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Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety Hardcover – January 13, 2009

3.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
Over the past three decades, our daily lives have changed slowly but dramatically. Boundaries between leisure and work, public space and private space, and home and office have blurred and become permeable. How many of us now work from home, our wireless economy allowing and encouraging us to work 24/7? How many of us talk to our children while scrolling through e-mails on our BlackBerrys? How many of us feel overextended, as we are challenged to play multiple roles–worker, boss, parent, spouse, friend, and client–all in the same instant?

Dalton Conley, social scientist and writer provides us with an X-ray view of our new social reality. In Elsewhere, U.S.A., Conley connects our daily experience with occasionally overlooked sociological changes: women’s increasing participation in the labor force; rising economic inequality generating anxiety among successful professionals; the individualism of the modern era--the belief in self-actualization and expression--being replaced by the need to play different roles in the various realms of one’s existence. In this groundbreaking book, Conley offers an essential understanding of how the technological, social, and economic changes that have reshaped our world are also reshaping our individual lives.

Amazon Exclusive Essay: Dalton Conley Writes in from His BlackBerry (Typos Intact)

I am writing this on my BlackBerry as I sit on the sidelines of my daughter's soccer game. My wife, her mother, is off in Indiana on business. And this pretty much captures life in Elsewhere USA, where professional couples with children feel the pressures of work 24/7 and solve their multiple commitment conflicts by doing all at once with partial attention. We are afraid to stop working (ir perhaps can't) since, though in objectivew terms we may be doing better, rising ineqiality makes us feel as if we are falling behind...

it struvk me that as of 2007, when I set out om this project, noone had yet written a book that captured tye subtle but unmistakablw ways that everyday life has changed fir this class of americans--or, for that matter, the socioeconomic roots of such changes, above and betond the obvious technological advances that have besieiged us over the last two decades...

(Coach scolds me for coaching my daughter from the sidelines...)

There had once been an esteemed tradition among sociologists to try to crystallize a historical moment, in order 2 reflect it back 2 those living it in the hope that one has put words to somethibg that was felt by many but unarticulated. The 1950s were filled wuth such classics like, THE ORGANIZATION MAN; WHITE COLLAR; THE LONELY CROWD; and THE AFFLUENT SOCIETY, to name a dfew.

So I decided to try to swing for the fences, so to speak, and put into words what I--as a sociologist and victim of the elsewhere ethic--saw happening around me. The economic red shift (anxiety caused by rising inequality at the top), the price culture (the spread of markets into every nook and cranny of daily life), convestment (investment + consumption), weisure (work + leisure), the portable workshop (what I am writing this on), intravidualism (an ethic of fragmented selves replacing the modern ethic of individualism), and, of course, the Elsewhere Society (the interpenetration of spheres of life that were once bounded fropm each other). All these terms were attempts 2 describe the gradual--yet fundamental--ways that life has changed beneath our feet since those days of those 1950s classics. The organization man is gone, replaced by the elsewhere dad, the blackberry mom and various other figures in our new social landscape. Or so I claim... It's up to u 2 tell me if I've struck out or connected...

(Goal for the Ravens!!!! Go E!)

(Photo credit Lisa Ackerman)

From Publishers Weekly

Conley (Honky) makes a prescient analysis of how technology and free markets have transformed American life, comparing the mid-20th century American with the present-day incarnation. These are two very different animals—one compartmentalized and motivated by the traditional American ethos of success, and the other a psychological hybrid of impulses connected to work, pleasure, materialism and consumption. The results of this brilliant and, at times, chilling comparison, are manifest not only on these pages but in real life. Cheap and easy credit, he writes, has been a major reason why the United States recently dipped into negative savings for the first time since the great depression. Conley examines how, technology has altered how Americans earn and spend money, playing out the behaviors characteristic of late capitalism, or simply an evolving economic system that, by attaching a price to virtually everything from child rearing to dating, has helped devalue people, the work they do and the material goods they desire. A sociological mirror, this book is equal parts cautionary tale, exercise in contemporary anthropology and a spiritual and emotional audit of the 21st century American. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joshua Kim on February 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book may have well been special ordered to help my family understand our lives and struggles. Conley and I seem to share more then a few things, born in 1969, degrees in sociology, 2 school age children, and married to high achieving professional women. We also seem to share a love for our work and a wonder about how the line between work and family has blurred (as I sit here Sunday evening with my laptop pecking out book reviews while my girls dance around me). The premise of Elsewhere USA is that highly educated professionals (particularly those of us raising kids or taking care of dependents) are defined by gifts and obligations inherent in the tension between nurturing careers and nurturing our families. We love our work, but since we deal in concepts, knowledge and persuasion it is not always clear if produce anything solid. Therefore, we are spurned to work more, in order to justify to others our value and to accrue the knowledge and social capital necessary to insure mobility in the knowledge economy. Nights and weekends are spent one eye on the laptop, one-eye on the kids, never quite being totally focussed on either but keeping both going. Separating work and family is increasingly unrealistic, as both spheres demand time and energy in bursts or at unpredictable times, and neither can be "put aside" to focus on any single demand. Conley's recommendation is to give up worrying about role conflict, and embrace the duality and dynamism of a hybrid work/family life. Once the laptop has been opened it cannot be shut (and really - who would want to as it brings such interesting information and networks). Besides, this is the world our kids will live in as well....and it is through watching how we handle the juggle that they will learn to be flexible and hopefully find work that is their passion (as they will do so much of it in their lives).

Grade: A-
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Preface: This book was penned before the recent market crash.

Clay Shirky's 'Here Comes Everybody' was the best book that I read in 2008. Dalton Conley's 'Elsewhere, U.S.A.' may prove to be the best book that I read in 2009. [And it's only February 1st!] [Interestingly enough, both Clay Shirky and Dalton Conley are both affiliated with NYU.]

The two central questions that Dalton Conley raises and attempts to answer are these:

Given that:
- When Mr. 1959 (depicted in William Whyte's 'Organization Man') attained a dignified level of professional success (i.e. established one's own dentistry practice, become a vice-president at a tire company, etc.), he often parlayed the accompanying level of income and wealth into more leisure time for he and his family.
- Whereas when Mr. (or increasingly Mrs.) 2009 attains a comparable level of professional success (i.e. rises to the rank of marketing executive for a multinational corporation, joins a prestigious law firm, etc), he (or she) increasingly does *not* parlay the accompanying level of wealth into more leisure time. Instead, he or she winds up working more hours with more economic anxiety.

- How and why did this happen?
- What are the ramifications of this change?

Throughout, Conley asserts that it was not one thing, but many that led us to this economic reality:

Here are just a few:
- Rising economic inequality between high and low wage earners, and self-imposed pressure to "keep up with the Joneses" in a post-materialist society.
- Technology that enables a 24x7 work week.
- Females earning more and remaining in the work force for longer spans of time.
- A lower marginal income tax rate for the top bracket.
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Format: Hardcover
To be fair, I read "Elsewhere, USA" twice before writing this not-so-positive review.

Let me begin by saying that I bought this book based on the cover caption, "How we got from the Company Man, Family Dinners and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, Blackberry moms and Exonomic Anxiety." The concept is so contemporary that I thought that the book would be very interesting - and it was, for approximately 66 pages (of 190) plus preface and introduction.

However, as is too typical of University professors like this author (see prior reviews of Gladwell/Pausch books), the topical discussion is too short for a salable book (think several classes out of a semester course), necessitating added chapters of quasi/non related filler material that fluff up the page count but do not add much to the dialogue of the author's primary concept. This is irritating.

Regarding the (d)evolution of the Company Man of the 1950's to today's hyper-connected 24/7 Company Person (gender neutral), all I can say is , "No Kidding!" Tell us something that we do not already know just by living/breathing/working/guilting and self-loathing in 2009! The important question from a sociological perspective, however, is where is this all headed? The author purposely proposes no solutions.

Huh?

In essence, then, "Elsewhere, USA" is a blinding, if not painful, flash of the obvious, without sufficient forward looking analytics.

This is not to say that the author does not make some good and interesting points about the current culture. For instance, one thing that is very interesting about "Elsewhere" is the confirmation that most motivated professionals now disdain leisure as a priority goal (as contrasted with their 1959 counterparts).
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