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Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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"This is a smart, respectful and compelling book."
—Jason DeParle, The New York Times Book Review
"Hochschild comes to know people—and her own nation—better than they know themselves"
—Heather Mallick, The Toronto Star
"Satisfying...[Hochschild's] analysis is overdue at a time when questions of policy and legislation and even fact have all but vanished from the public discourse."
—Nathaniel Rich, The New York Review of Books
"Hochschild moves beyond the truism that less affluent voters who support small government and tax cuts are voting against their own economic interest."
"Up close there is a depth to the concerns of Hochschild's subjects...They are concerned about pollution, and about the social decay that we see most vividly in the opioid epidemic. They are aware...of facts on the ground."
—Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
"Strangers in Their Own Land is extraordinary for its consistent empathy and the attention it pays to the emotional terrain of politics. It is billed as a book for this moment, but it will endure."
—Gabriel Thompson, Newsday
[Hochschild's] connection and kindness to the people she meets is what makes this book so powerful.
—Marion Winik, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives...[She] conveys that she genuinely likes the people she meets, communicating their dignity and values...These attentive, detailed portraits...reveal a gulf between Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and a new elite."
—Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic
"The importance of emotion in politics, not just facts and figures, [Hochschild] writes convincingly, is critical to understand...a point politicians of all stripes would be smart to remember."
—Felice Belman, The Boston Globe
"The anger and hurt of the author's interviewees is intelligible to all. In today's political climate, this may be invaluable."
"Arlie Russell Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land will certainly be among the most timely of books in this moment of seeming near apocalypse...remarkable."
—Sean McCann, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"Hochschild has gone about her investigation diligently and with an appealing humility."
—Karen Olsson, Bookforum
"Strangers In Their Own Land is by far the best book by an outsider to the Tea Party I have ever encountered.
"An important contribution to the understanding of our times... Strangers in Their Own Land describes in vivid detail a world that is often ignored or caricatured by the media and by many liberals."
"[Hochschild's] deeply humble approach is refreshing and strengthens her research.... She skillfully invites liberal readers into the lives of Americans whose views they may have never seriously considered. After evaluating her conclusions and meeting her informants in these pages, it's hard to disagree that empathy is the best solution to stymied political and social discourse."
"A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance."
"If the great political question of our time can be summarized in the two words, 'Donald Trump,' the answer is to be found in Arlie Russell Hochschild's brilliant new book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. Hochschild, an eminent sociologist with a novelist's storytelling skill, has crafted an absorbing tale full of richly drawn, complicated characters who come bearing their own fascinating histories. Together, in Hochschild's authoritative hands, they offer a compelling and lucid portrait of what had seemed a bewildering political moment. A powerful, imaginative, necessary book, arriving not a moment too soon."
—Mark Danner, author of Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War
"Arlie Hochschild journeys into a far different world than her liberal academic enclave of Berkeley, into the heartland of the nation's political right, in order to understand how the conservative white working class sees America. With compassion and empathy, she discovers the narrative that gives meaning and expression to their lives–and which explains their political convictions, along with much else. Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book."
—Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
"The celebrated sociologist Arlie Hochschild left Berkeley and went far outside her comfort zone to live among and report on Tea Party members in Louisiana over five years. With the clear-headed empathy she is famous for, she explored the central paradox of these political activists in the heart of 'cancer alley': they understand that the chemical and oil companies have destroyed their environment and sometimes their lives, but they remain ardent defenders of free market capitalism. Hochschild spent many hours—at church services, picnics and kitchen tables—probing the ways they struggle to reconcile their conflicting interests and loyalties. There could not be a more important topic in current American politics, nor a better person to dissect it. Every page—every story and individual—is fascinating, and the emerging analysis is revelatory."
"In her attempt to climb over the 'empathy wall' and truly understand the emotional lives of her political adversaries, Arlie Hochschild gives us a vital roadmap to bridging the deep divides in our political landscape and renewing the promise of American democracy. A must-read for any political American who isn't ready to give up just yet."
—Joan Blades, co-founder of LivingRoomConversations.org, MomsRising.org, and MoveOn.org
"Arlie Russell Hochschild's work has never been more timely or more necessary, from the resurgence of interest in emotional labor to this deep, empathetic dive into the heart of the Right. Strangers in Their Own Land does what few dare to do—it takes seriously the role of feelings in politics."
—Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
About the Author
Arlie Russell Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. She is the author of nine books, including The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Managed Heart, and The Outsourced Self. Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and her work appears in sixteen languages. The winner of the Ulysses Medal as well as Guggenheim and Mellon grants, she lives in Berkeley, California.
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She picked Louisiana because it presented an extreme example of what she called the “great paradox.” Statistics show that this state ranks very low in “human development.” - it ranks 49th. In overall health, it ranked last, it ranked 48th in eight-grade reading, 49th out of 50 in eight-grade math, and 49th in child well-being. Yet these same people will spurn most federal help. Even so, 44 percent of the state’s budget comes from the federal government. As Alec MacGillis of the NY Times stated, “People in red states who need Medicaid and food stamps welcome them but don’t vote…while those a little higher on the class ladder, white conservatives, don’t need them and do vote – against public dollars for the poor.” When it comes to the significant pollution from the petrochemical industry, the logic is “the more oil, the more jobs. The more jobs, the more prosperity, and the less need for government … the better off they will be.”
In the subsequent chapters of Part II, the author enters the “social terrain” of the people to investigate how the basic institutions of industry, state government, church, and the press influenced their feelings about life. The author has many conversations with the people living there and relates the narratives for us. We get a firsthand look at just how the people think, and what influences their opinions.
In Part III, the author discuss the “deep story” of the people. She defines this as the story feelings tell in the language of symbols, removing judgement and fact. It allows both sides to “explore the subjective prism through which the party on the other side sees the world.” It represents, in metaphorical form, “the hopes, fears, pride, shame, resentment, and anxiety in the lives” of those she talked to. We see how racism, discrimination, sexism, oppression, gender issues, class, and immigration play into their sympathies.
In the final section, the author provides a contrast between the 1860s and the 1960s before delving into something called “collective effervescence,” referring to the “state of emotional excitation felt by those who join with others they take to be fellow members of a moral biological tribe.” In her travels, Hochschild was humbled by the complexity and height of the empathy wall, but felt that the people she met in Louisiana showed that the wall could easily come down, and that there is a possibility for practical cooperation.
The book concludes with three appendixes. Appendix A describes the research, Appendix B talks about the relationship of politics and pollution, and Appendix C covers fact-checking.
Another reviewer of "Hillbilly Elegy" said it best: all these books are inartculate attempts to describe the true scene that that now been revealed to us. We don't know how to talk about this; we don't know how to talk to each other. One day we may stumble into a lexicon and a strategy for solution, but the way forward for now is to first learn to listen to each other and reflect upon our own distorting frames.