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The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; Reprint edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595586423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595586421
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this fascinating exploration of economic civil disobedience, Dodson (Don't Call Us Out by Name) introduces readers to teachers, supervisors, health-care professionals and managers who bend the rules—and even break the law—to support those in need. Dodson shares stories of individuals like Linda, a health-care supervisor who has, against hospital policy, driven an employee to court on work time and allows her low-wage employees to manipulate the schedule so they can attend to child-care needs. The author interviews Cora, a restaurant manager, who came up with a double talk system, in which she keeps two sets of time sheets so that workers can attend to family issues and who says, helping women meet their kids or do what they have to do is more important than her chain restaurant's rules. Dodson's study is gripping and her argument is persuasive: we should not have to put compassionate Americans in a position where they have to choose between following rules and helping those who are trying to help themselves. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Sociologist Dodson considers the impact of Americas economic woes on the struggling middle class in this anecdote-heavy investigation of hourly-wage workers. She takes an unusual approach by speaking with employers who consciously subvert company policies to assist their employees, especially working parents (and particularly single mothers) who often find themselves torn between family and job. Via interviews, Dodson explores the trials and tribulations of such conflicts and reveals how statistics hide the actual impact of a system focused on the bottom line at the expense of employee home life. Her subjects prove, however, that profits can be attained without high labor turnover and worker lives can be enhanced without incurring insurmountable corporate costs. It isnt easy to fit morality into a standard business discussion, and Dodsons thesis that breaking company rules is a form of civi --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Lisa Dodson worked as a union activist, an obstetrical nurse, and the director of the Division of Women's Health for the state of Massachusetts before becoming a professor of sociology at Boston College. Author of The Moral Underground and Don't Call Us Out of Name, she lives in Auburndale, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

TMU is the best book I have read on this subject.
J. Davis
These stories are captivating and society needs to recognize these brave people who are trying to do whats right, more than just follow the rule book.
David W. Liu
It's a bad sign when a 200 page book begins referring to itself in the past tense 20 pages from the end.
Christopher Good

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kevin G on August 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book covers three main "middle level" economic backgrounds and how each is personally and professionally affected by the "poverty level" workforce. The theme of most people seem to be the same throughout the book as most are willing and ready to help out hard working mothers who cannot make ends meet, no matter what it takes. A few hard nosed curmudgeons pop into the picture from time to time and take a very conservative look at the topic at hand, but their theories are quickly quelled by the good hearted managers, teachers, priests, etc. It makes you ask yourself if you would do the same thing for a worker of yours no matter what the consequence was. It definitely presents a moral business dilemma.

Note the author makes sure you know she wrote this book for the "poverty level" workforce who are not on drugs and lazy/living off the government. This book is written about all the other people working below a livable wage trying to make it in this country.

It would be nice if this book provided a more direct analysis on how to fix these types of issues as I think that is what most readers would be looking forward to reading about after picking up this book. It is definitely more of a documentary on her findings based on the studies/group studies she conducted. But I truly feel this book does a great job of conveying how tough/impossible life is for honest people who make $8 an hour and have kids.

Imagine working 13 hour days with no insurance for very little money and supporting kids who need you desperately and you cannot be there for them? Physically or mentally? Dealing with public transportation and bosses that do not understand your plight? Teachers who think you are neglecting your own kids just because you cannot take a day off of work for a special one on one meeting? Dealing with the mental health issues that poverty brings along that ultimately effects you and your family like Dominos? I cannot imagine that life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David W. Liu on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This fascinating collection of stories by Lisa Dodson gives insight into the struggles average people find to do what's right. Average people in some position of responsibility struggle to treat people humanely even if they have to "bend the rules" a little to show fairness. What has happened in our society where people who work hard at 2 or 3 jobs to provide for their family cant even earn enough to support them? They are trying their best to work hard and keep their family growing up right but don't the flexibility to care for a sick child or parent. It is only when a few brave managers take the risk of loosing their jobs to do whats right that our society gives people a break. These stories are captivating and society needs to recognize these brave people who are trying to do whats right, more than just follow the rule book. Thanks to Lisa Dodson for spending years collecting these genuine stories of real people.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Good on May 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Moral Underground addresses a very important subject and is a jarring wake-up call about the ways our economy has changed over the last generation. "Welfare reform" has "succeeded" in that we've removed the safety net; now the working poor get paid less than it costs to live, and this has terrible effects on children and on other workers up and down the economic scale. That's all true, and Dodson says so, but I wish she would have gone a little deeper in her analyisis of this subject. This seemed more like a metabook in that much of it was about how the book was written. It's a bad sign when a 200 page book begins referring to itself in the past tense 20 pages from the end. She keeps introducing the subject and describing what she's about to tell us, and then she refers back to the introduction during the telling. I kept wondering when we were going to get to the meat.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A.C. on August 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You will not hear an argument from me about the pressing need for change in some of America's institutions in regards to labor, families and health insurance. But frankly, this book takes the idea that there needs to be change and slaughters it. There is no active thesis that binds the book together. The chapters and parts of the book move haphazardly along in a disjointed and unorganized way. The interviews are all basically the same story, there is not much insight revealed after the first couple in a part of the book and the analysis that follows adds nothing constructive to the discussion of the issue, not to mention it is intensely biased in favor of one side. I see really no point in this book that promotes itself as a reason to read this book-I gave it two stars because I like the issue, not the book itself. At the end of every book, the reader has the right to ask "so, what?" There was no answer to that question in this book-no call to action, no unique insight. Just repeating the work of others and monotonous interviews.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Franklin the Mouse on April 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All businesses continually try to externalize risk. The ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots is irrefutable. Ms. Dodson shows examples of how the moral quandry some mid-level employers and managers have when continually faced with employees who make substandard pay; otherwise know as the working poor. There have been other books such as William Ryan's 1971 book, "Blaming the Victim," that shown how middle-class Americans rationalize putting all the blame on the poor for their horrible situation. Ms. Dodson's brings the scenario into the present day. Much of the blame is now tailored as the working poor having bad work habits and bad reproductive habits.

Business and managers without empathy don't care one lick if an employee is struggling to make ends meet because of crappy wages and an ungodly work schedule. The companies don't care or ignore that the working poor's kids are alone and failing in school because of no parental involvement the businesses have caused. The companies don't care or ignore that the employees have no health care. Many of the examples in the author's book are about these exhausted people who are working two jobs and, justifiably, constantly living in fear. Many managers and executives take an Ann Rand approach, shrug their shoulders and continue to exploit their hapless quasi-slaves. Ms. Dodson believes the "moral underground" is a disorganized rebellion against corporate malfeasance. The book is basically many disjointed examples of people down on their luck. It also explains the logic of people in power for exploiting other human beings in such manners and, trust me, these suits sleep just fine at night.

If you have any empathy, you will find it a difficult read. I found most of the author's remedies to be unrealistic and incomplete.
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