Opting for Elsewhere: Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class Kindle Edition
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The book is worth reading because it gives you an insight into how very high-powered, successful information workers just suddenly break and cannot perform any longer. Technology has a great deal to do with this, but if you read the book, you’ll see it’s about control over one’s destiny that drives these folks to extreme change. Control is not something technology designers tend to give enterprise workers -- but they should.
As ethnographies go, Hoey gives his share of "thick description." People become real; his stories are rich. I would have liked more stories of interactions between people, and also descriptions of the tools and artifacts people have. If you want to see what a contemporary ethnography looks like, this is a good one.
In the second chapter, titled “Constructing the Good,” the author delves into the old ideal of small town USA, with its main street, back streets, small homes, affluent parts, boarding houses where the unmarried teachers lived. If you read To Kill A Mockingbird, or a Sinclair Lewis novel, you’ll know what I mean by the small town life, where everyone exists in a mutually beneficial relationship. You had rich and poor, good and bad, young and old, all within a short distance from each other. But that’s been disappearing for years. People wanted big houses and small ones emptied, and now young people have stopped buying houses altogether. Remember Dixon, Illinois, where President Reagan was born in an apartment above a shoe store? I bet that today, such an apartment would be synonymous with “loser.”
Hoey uses case studies of people who migrate far and wide. Some you might call “artists” who want low living costs and peace, others move for work, some travel in camping vans. I recon a lot of Walmart parking lots all over the nation are seeing an influx of campers, some enjoying the experience, others probably aren’t. Greg Brown’s song Boomtown is displayed in its entirety, and he sings about the artists, tourists, and the displacement. You can see a sizeable example of migration in Manhattan; we have many homeless people in the city, and almost none of them are locals. They come from small towns in Upstate New York, fleeing for different reasons. Many of the younger ones have been thrown out by their families, and in small towns the police don’t tolerate vagrancy. New York is the only city where they’ll be accepted. In today’s economy, there’s greater incentive to throw kids out.
Opting For Elsewhere isn’t so much about migration, but the way collapsing cities have sent Americans on a “discovery trail.” May they all find prosperity, and if not, may they all find their peace.