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Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (2016)

by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1753416,797 (4.06)1 / 111
"In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country--a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets--among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident--people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children. Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream--and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in "red" America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from "liberal" government intervention abhor the very idea?"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (Chicago Studies in American Politics) by Katherine J. Cramer (arethusarose)
    arethusarose: Covers rural Wisconsin, with similar intent. The rural north haste some different issues, but many of the same reasons; this is another book showing party change; Wisconsin used to be a State with strong liberal tendencies, but neoliberal policies have made this change.… (more)
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» See also 111 mentions

English (33)  Dutch (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I consider myself a conservative, but does that mean I am by definition a moron as well?

In "Strangers in Thgeir Own Land" sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild embeds herself in the battalions of Republican foot soldiers to help her understand why these people believe the litany of lies propounded by the Republican Party against good government and common sense. Hochschild hopes to find some common ground upon which the two sides can meet to help the country move forward and not backward on some pretty crucial societal issues, not the least of which is the degradation of the environment. The setting for this story is Louisiana, among the poorest, least educated, and politically backward states in the union.

The story seems to end on a hopeful note but I for one closed the book absolutely enraged. Oil refineries, chemical processors, and plastics factories have turned significant parts of the state into a toxic dump and the residents are so grateful for the jobs that they don't put up the least fight for their homes.

They twice elect Republican Bobby Jindhal and he turns over their taxes to corporate welfare bums, cuts deeply into education and social welfare, and virtually dismantles their environmental protection department. Are these people total ignoramuses?

They hate taxes and they hate their federal government. What do they get in return? Marshes sodden with deadly chemical dumps, wildlife on their last gasp, and wetlands destroyed at a frantic pace.

To a some degree I can empathize with the notion that the northern, cleaner and richer states harvest the benefit of plastics production and the southern slower states reap the booby prize.

But give me a break.

These people let themselves be deluded by their religion, their history, and their idiotic television news programs into thinking that the government is against them, that anybody with an education must be a carpetbagger, and that immigrants are grabbing the ring ahead of them on the carousel of life.

What motivates these people? Envy. Suspicion. Mistrust. This does not not bode well for a democracy. People have to participate, share, and compromise. A misguided trust in totally unregulated capitalism, the Protestant work ethic and self-help philosophy means that if somebody doesn't do things the way you want them to, they must be working for some nefarious Big Brother.

As an antidote to this defeatism I recommend reading "Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-hour Workweek," by Dutch critic Rutger Bregman. Instead of blaming the poor, says Bregman, we should focus on addressing inequality. It will make people less suspicious of their neighbours, less anxious about their own status, and more productive in the long run.

As for their suspicion that government is their enemy, GET OVER IT! Your government is just your own people, whether they are two minutes from your home or 2,000 miles away in Washington DC.

I'm going to quote myself here: Rome fell for less! ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
While a well-written and readable character study, this book does nothing to explain the cognitive dissonance in its subjects. These people do not simply have a differing opinion of how to accomplish things like environmental reclamation; they live in an alternate reality in which facts do not exist and the myth of the free market is alive and screeching, despite being *plainly false* by *looking out the back window.*

The book is of a genre Ed Burmila calls “Cletus Safari,” wherein the confused white liberal intellectual interviews a bunch of Trump supporters and comes to the conclusion that they just want to be *heard* despite generally clearly being misinformed, racist, bigoted, or a host of other things. There is nothing revelatory in this, and by the end I was only *more* angry and annoyed by the Fox News set.

I wouldn’t recommend it outside of a example of sheer wtf-ery of the right’s base. ( )
  rickiep00h | Dec 5, 2023 |
Chapter 9 The Deep Story- waiting in line and getting mad with those who cut in front helps to explain the feelings of the right. ( )
  pollycallahan | Jul 1, 2023 |
The author's stated intention is to advanced progressives' understanding of conservatives beyond the standard progressive theories, to wit that ordinary working people who vote conservative are either duped by right-wing propaganda, or won over by the right on social issues to the detriment of their economic interests, or else are racially intolerant. By getting to know working people who are conservative voters in Lake Charles, LA, she hopes to understand the way they feel about society, and the stories they tell themselves that make voting conservative make sense. What is curious in this virtually anthropological exercise is the extent to which the standard theories are corroborated: people do believe standard right-wing canards, such as that welfare is widely abused by scroungers, canards which the author debunks in an appendix; some do put religion and abortion first; she does note signs of racism. Other motives are as one would expect: many distrust the government because it is corrupt, at both State and federal level, a charge few progressives will deny; some hold to a libertarian preference for minimal government; many feel their way of life is despised by 'liberal intellectual' types; many believe jobs depend on light taxation and regulation. There is hypocrisy: they want government to get out the way, then blame it when something goes wrong.

The most original theory advanced in the book, as a composite 'deep story' synthesised from all the author learns from her subjects, is that these right-wingers feel attacked in their honour: they believe that they are hard workers for whom progress towards material comfort has stalled, people who have been put on society's backburner relative to other groups who are being unfairly allowed to cut in the line for personal betterment by gaining unmerited assistance and concern, be they racial minorities or immigrants or women or public-sector workers. What does this amount to? It is a mix of intolerance and misinformation, stirred up by right-wing politicians and media, finding ready soil in a state with a deeply racist history, devoid of insight into the economic processes which are in fact responsible for the stagnation in living standards.

As the author pursues with particular focus the question of why these Louisianans tend to vote for politicians who promote unregulated, free-market economics at the same time as their state is wrecked by industrial pollution, it is saddening to read how these citizens' prejudices and blinkers prevent them from pulling together to improve their society. They would like companies to stop polluting their waters, but they don't want the government to protect them; they would like to make progress into better education, jobs and housing, but they don't want government programs to help them. Their ideological strictures have left them in a position where they cannot move in the direction they want to go. They believe in local mutual help to make community life better, but they are dealing with corporate and market forces too big for them to handle. Their ideology is not fit for purpose.

This book engenders empathy and sympathy for its subjects, but at the same time does not ultimately convince me that there is much to say about why ordinary working people vote for Tea Party politicians beyond what the likes of Tom Frank have already shown: for the sake of their prejudices, their moral values, and their susceptibility to propagandistic misinformation, such people are enthusiastically voting against the kind of progressive politics that would be in fact be best for them. This should not be as surprising as it seems, and only seems remarkable because of a left-wing prejudice that says left-wing politics is natural to less well-off working people on economic grounds. As the author successfully shows, it simply isn't. Self-esteem and a sense of security in one's identity have a tendency to come before material self-interest. The primary political struggle between Right and Left is not really about this policy or that policy, but about winning voters' identification as conservative or liberal, to batten down their tribal allegiance. To explain why the Right has been so successful at generating this cultural and political tribalism in the South, however, requires less an anthropological than a historical investigation of the kind done in [b:America's Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era from Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon|354792|America's Uncivil Wars The Sixties Era from Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon|Mark H. Lytle|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1389668640s/354792.jpg|1785796]: conservative tribalism, it seems to me, is essentially the backlash to the divisive Civil Rights/Vietnam/Counterculture era amped to breaking point by Fox News. ( )
1 vote fji65hj7 | May 14, 2023 |
Interesting read ( )
  bangerlm | Jan 18, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Hochschild made 10 trips to southwestern Louisiana from 2011 to 2016, extended forays away from her perch at the University of California at Berkeley, to delve into her “keen interest in how life feels to people on the right — that is, in the emotion that underlies politics. To understand their emotions,”
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arlie Russell Hochschildprimary authorall editionscalculated
Toren, SuzanneNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bischoff, UlrikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
dix!Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mahon, EmilyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Misrach, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smeets, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Harold and Annette Areno. And for Willie, Wilma, Marylee, Mike T., Clara, and the General
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Along the clay road, Mike's red truck cuts slowly between tall rows of sugarcane, sassy, silvery tassels waving in the October sun, extending across an alluvial plain as far as the eye can see.
(Preface) When I began this research five years ago, I was becoming alarmed at the increasingly hostile split in our nation between two political camps.
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"In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country--a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets--among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident--people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children. Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream--and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in "red" America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from "liberal" government intervention abhor the very idea?"--

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