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Elsewhere, U.S.A. by Dalton Conley

Elsewhere, U.S.A. (2009)

by Dalton Conley

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I tried but could not relate to this book. ( )
  readit2 | Jan 28, 2010 |
Hear ye, you wordsmiths of the web, you purveyors of pages, you iterators of information: Welcome to Elsewhere, U.S.A. Your personality will be split into a "thousand emails," as Conley says. Instead of individuals we are "intraviduals," getting pulled in so many different directions, we are only comfortable looking to the next thing we have to do, the next place we have to be.

Conley's nostalgia for simpler days is palpable, when leisure was playing Bridge with the neighbors. Today, work and leisure mesh together so seamlessly that no-one knows themselves anymore. In the interview (found on my blog, PurpleCar.net), Conley speaks fondly of a backpacking trip he took in Europe when he was 18 and had to learn how to deal with himself.
  PurpleCar | Jul 19, 2009 |
Elsewhere, U.S.A. initially comes off as a more comprehensive update to Georg Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life where Mr. and Mrs. 2009’s exposure to the unwieldy onslaught of emails, soccer practices, and complex-professional demands tends to increasingly fragment any clear notion of the individual (or the inner, private self). Whereas I’ve always read Simmel’s 1903 ode in hindsight as far too hyperbolic, Conley’s text does an admirable job of presenting many of these issues in a comprehensive, easily digestible manner (as I haven’t read Simmel’s writings about money, pre-modern society, etc. my reading is certainly skewered by the brevity of Metropolis). Nonetheless there seems something of a generalization about Mr. and Mrs. 2009 (he frequently contrasts our current couple with their 1959 counterparts) that reminds me of the supposed populace cleverly defined by Stuff White People Like. In Lander’s case, the subjects are presumably “white folk,” but really they’re a mere segment of the non-Hispanic White population that falls within the 24-to-35 age range, has or is working for a graduate degree, and lives in a gentrifying urban neighborhood. Conley’s approach, of course, isn’t that myopic. There is much in this book that is relevant for everyone in the US today.

Possibly the most important aspect of this text is where he pinpoints the widening income gap as not only between rich and poor, but also – even more statistically glaring – between the merely well-off and the very rich. This disparity and the attendant technological accouterments tend to foster an aggressive populace that is always working. For any well-earned time off is no longer viewed as such but rather seen as additional money lost. Perhaps my unease is that I must consider this from the vantage point of my distorted segment of the population – that is, as an architect. Our modus operandi is to work insane hours so we can make less money, and attain zero job security (for you see, Lander’s peeps who enthuse about architecture while lounging in their “van der Rohe” never give me a damn call! But I digress…).

If I found myself a bit detached from some of the general themes, in utilizing details/examples the author had the uncanny knack of mentioning various things that I often complain about but seemingly escape the ire of others. His acknowledgement that money-procured organ and sex transactions are seemingly the only things considered taboo in our otherwise comprehensive capitalist society is spot on. But my favorite was his experience in 1989 of seeing an AmEx advertisement in a movie theater. When The Village was supposedly still “The Village,” many of the patrons booed, hissed, threw crap at the screen, and walked out. But, as the author is no doubt correct, they likely were satiated by free tickets to yet another movie fronted by crass advertising. Everyone just moved on with their life. Around 1990 I saw my first ad before a movie – Levis Jeans – and I was equally perturbed. His mention made me ponder why I’ve only gone to about five movies in the intervening 19 years (usually dragged kicking and screaming to even those) and I realized that initially I (loudly) refused to pay box office rates to see a damn commercial. Eventually I had forgot about my defiant stand, and simply didn’t go as I was too busy beefing up my architecture portfolio in case any of Lander’s “White People” came-a-calling. ( )
  mjgrogan | Jul 17, 2009 |
The Elsewhere Generation

When historians look back at this period, from the mid-90's to our present, they will, as Conley has, find many parallels between the conformity of the 1950s to our present time. There are similarities, yet significant differences as well. That is what Conley attempts to explore, the sociological effects of what he calls, the elsewhere class, the result of changing economic, familial, and technological changes.

Conley works through a number of frameworks, he has a heavy marxist bent to most of his analysis, especially on the notion of commodity fetishism and economic inequality. The many paradoxes and contradictions which include the fact that despite the efficiencies of the digital world, we work twice as hard; or the fact that work has become the end rather than the means; or that the more money we earn the higher economic anxiety we experience.

Some parts are better analyzed than others. The parts on social class and work relations are better than the chapters on child psychology and technology. Also, some of the historical work on the 1950s is partially incomplete. At less than 200 pages, Conley perhaps tackles more than he can chew. But the writing is colloquial which makes reading quite the breeze.

Overall, I think this is an excellent book for anyone looking for a primer on the effects of technology and globalization on social relations. ( )
  bruchu | Jul 9, 2009 |
Not good. Never rises very high above park-bench observations and doesn't seem ashamed to dip into the same bag of cultural cliches you hear on television. He has a hold of the necessary sociological facts to slap down Mareen Dowd, but that's not saying much. Maybe it's just me, and I don't go in for this sort of stuff. Some of the history was interesting, however.
  leeinaustin | Jan 31, 2009 |
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The title was originally planned to be "The elsewhere society : how we got to where we are not".
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375422900, Hardcover)

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)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:44 -0400)

Examining the dramatic changes that have occurred in American society over the past three decades, the author of The Pecking Order offers a thoughtful study of the new social realities of life, explaining how the social, economic, and technological transformation has reshaped individual lives.… (more)

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