on September 6th 2016
2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST FOR NONFICTION
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?
Gosh, reading this got me no further in understanding the conservative point of view than reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis or What’s the Matter with Kansas?
The most interesting part of the book is where Hochschild explains the “deep story” how the general consensus of the Tea Party she interviewed, over a five-year period, feels that “other people” are cutting to the front of the line to the American Dream. Affirmative action, immigrants, refugees, an overreaching federal government, job killing environmental regulations, cultural diversity, and taxes are standing in the way of reaching the American Dream.
The most horrifying part of the book was the environmental impact that the oil industry has had on Louisiana and the total acceptance of that devastation. Maintaining some ecological balance seems so important to me that the thought of selling or opening public lands to the private sector makes my heart palpitate.
This was a great book, I enjoyed reading about Louisiana, what a mess the state is. I don’t necessary agree with Hochschild’s “deep story”. I believe that the difference between a conservative and liberal is one of perception about world around us and where we fit as a species in it.