She doesn't quite get to the point that red states are red not in spite of the hard times folks there face but precisely because times are hard there. She also doesn't talk about anyone under 40, who have grown up in an era in which hatefulness is more accepted.
There is nothing revelatory in this book. Hochschild writes about things that are new to her, but really shouldn't have been. I really doubt that people picking up this book are unaware of the Tea Party, but Hochschild writes like it was a total mystery to her before she went to Louisiana. The book is a list of social calls to various people in Louisiana, and it's not a very deep look at those people or their beliefs. Why do they believe what they believe? They don't like big government, and they're frustrated that they can't get ahead. That's it. That's all she offers as an explanation. I can't believe this was the result of five years of research. There was nothing in here that she couldn't have learned from a five minute conversation with someone in line at the grocery store.
Thank you to the author. Some things I suspected I understood were happening, some things I learned. It reminds us all that in order to understand the person next to you, you have to take a walk in their shoes. This is what Hochschild is able to do.
For me this was a life-changing book. For the first time I understand that the different cultures in the United States are not just different because of food, clothes, music, etc. but that a culture will shape the way a person understands her place in society, what she feels she can expect from society, how empowered she feels to influence society. In particular, why people who desperately need federal regulation of pollution oppose any role for the federal government.
A powerful influence on what the culture will become has to do with the economic situation of the community. The implicit understanding that one is always financially vulnerable (and therefore vulnerable in innumerable ways) informs the entire culture.
The reader may see global influences at work such as out-sourcing and automation but the working people of Louisiana cannot wait for solutions that may take decades. They focus on
more concrete issues, such as affirmative action, which the appendixes to the book show are an inaccurate understanding of the problem.
We are not all alike. Our different cultures have make us very different from each other.
As the title suggests, the book deals with why Americans, particularly those on the right, feel like strangers in their own land. But, it is more than that; the author Arlie Russell Hochschild sets out from her Liberal home in Berkley, Ca, to the South and befriends Louisanians to try and explain the paradox of why despite increasing pollution the people are members of the Tea Party and vote for Republicans who talk of abolishing the EPA. Also, they are one of the poorest states but they do not want government funding. Hochscild starts out by talking of a Empathy Walls. she says, "An Empathy Wall is an obstacle to deep understanding of another person, one that can make us feel indifferent or even hostile to those who hold different beliefs or whose childhood is rooted in different circumstances." Rothschild does a detailed analysis of the paradox and the feelings of the people she meets and comes to the conclusion that ironically the right have more in common with the left; for many on the left feel like strangers in their own land too."
This has already made my top 10 list for the year. By turns revelatory and frustrating; why would anybody vote against holding companies accountable for the damage they've caused?!?! EPA--get rid of it, so say the Louisiana Tea Party adherents, huh?! Regardless of our differences, we need each other and should not vilify others for thinking the way they do. We all have blinders on, so lets remember that and try harder to work together. We all have a deep love of Country, which won't work unless we work together to move forward. More in depth review on my Tumblr account.
The 2016 election was the election that launched a thousand "what happened?" articles. We're just starting to get the deluge of post-election books. If you were Clinton supporter, you were endlessly chastised to get out of your bubble and your liberal preconceptions and understand the heartland Trump supporters. Oddly, I didn't hear much about rapid xenophobes and gun nuts being told to get out of their bubbles, which are apparently more authentic, however repulsive. "Strangers in Their Own Land" starts as a joke set-up: A Berkeley sociologist walks into a red state. . .Hochschild heads to Louisiana to try and understand the red state mindset in a state that, while heavily invested in and dependent on oil, was also the victim of one of the worst oil spills (the Deepwater Horizon) in history. Hochschild explores this paradox without going too deep, which is one of the book's flaws. She cites Thomas Frank's excellent "What's the Matter with Kansas?" as an inspiration, but she's not as caustic, incisive, and angry as he is. That't not to say it isn't an important book that sheds light on those that left coast elites too often dismiss, but I hardly think it will help bridge the considerable gap in our country.
This one gets five stars from me. I found it to be extremely interesting and well-written. From a non-sociologist perspective, I thought her one-issue focus- the environment- was a smart and manageable way to introduce readers not only to the Tea Party philosophy but to some everyday folks who follow it. It was no surprise to me that despite our differences of opinion that I found some of them very likable. What was surprising to me? The environmental state down in bayou country. Holy smokes... I had no idea it is so bad. And I have to say, it is very difficult for me to understand how they are willing to turn a blind eye, especially when the devastation is in their own backyards (literally). So in the end, I'm not sure that I managed to fully climb that "empathy wall" as the author hoped but I definitely found the book to be informative- even if depressingly so.
From a sociological standpoint, one could argue that the film "American History X" examines this topic succinctly as well.
I undertook reading this book as a librarian who wanted to make sure I did not give short shrift to the political/cultural divide that seemed to be the focus of this book and sadly at the heart of American politics. Sadly upon reading, I found that this book while being a very articulate summation of the biases of progressive intellectual elites doesn't shine much of a light on the disconnect that seem to at center of American cultural and political perspectives. Much as been said of the lack of empathy from the intellectual elites towards the "red-state" America, which is culturally conservative, racially white and working-class in nature. What the author stated she wanted to do was climb over the "empathy wall" that serves a barrier for people like her in understanding the people who live in places like Louisiana. What this book ended up being is an adroit restating of what you will get when you sit a bar or pub and listen to progressives wax about the state of America. The tome amounted to this: Berkeley professor goes to deep-red sate of Louisiana and discovers that her preexisting biases are confirmed. The author leaves, in the end, with the same views she came with and we really do not discover anything that has not already been stated and restated to the point of ad nauseam. If this book was designed to open the eyes of some who do not share the political perspectives of conservative areas, it failed. It if was however designed to reaffirm progressive bias, its succeeds. If your interested in this topic as a way to expand your ideas, save yourself some time and read "Democracy for Realist" or the standard setter, "What's A Matter with Kansas."
My father-in-law and I do not often vote for the same candidates or policies, but we both appreciated what this book had to say. The author models true intellectual and personal curiosity, with an emphasis on understanding one another across political divides. I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the particular environmental and political conditions of Louisiana, which shocked me at times - I found the work to be, in part, a cautionary tale for my own environmentally regulated blue state and a push to recognize that blue states often want to "have their cake and eat it too" in terms of shunting environmentally degrading projects and process to red states. We all use the products - who experiences most of the cost, and why?
Hochschild, a well-respected sociological researcher, set out to explore why Tea Party Americans feel, believe, and vote the way they do. In other words, to see them as real people, not just "dupes" who vote against their own economic interests. Over the course of 5 years (2011-2016), she got to know residents of small Louisiana towns who trusted her with their stories. As she attempted to scale the "empathy wall", Hochschild came to know what she calls the "deep story" (often going back generations) that governs their lives. The deep story also has 4 archetypes, the team player, the worshipper, the cowboy, and the rebel, which has both male and female models. In her final analysis, the author explores the historical fires of the 1860s and 1960s which still govern Southerners' beliefs today. As big oil replaced big cotton, many whites fell onto ever shakier economic times and felt culturally marginalized by "others cutting in line" -- others such as women, minorities, immigrants, refugees, and government workers. As an "emotions" candidate, Trump tapped into this deep resentment well in his 2016 presidential campaign. As the author learned, the "left and the right are focused on different conflicts and the respective ideas of fairness linked to them." This is an important book that has many different areas for discussion -- the author even tries to bridge the divide by writing a letter to a friend on the liberal left and another letter to a Louisiana friend on the right. As a true academic, the author includes her methodology, national discoveries from a toxic map, and fact-checking of common impressions plus 52 pages of end notes and a 21-page bibliography for further reading.
Excellent book for understanding the emotions underpinning the current political climate on the right. This work is not a polemic. It's meant as a bridge for understanding one side of the national divide. Highly recommend it.
When one chooses a biased experiment [predictable results from highly understood variables], it is considered scientifically unreliable: Louisiana has the highest revenues traditionally from oil [taking into account those offshore rigs as well] and the highest poverty rates - - obviously a lot of stupidity and sheepleton ways to go around.
As a former True Progressive [who now refers to himself as a truth-seeker given the number of faux progressives, like the Clintons and Obama, out there] I fully grasp that what Obama has done in the way of national security and America's survival over his two administrations has been absolute insanity - - it ONLY makes sense in the short term to pumping up, or inflating, financial assets - - ergo, Obama, like the ones before him, have been following the dictates of the financial hegemons, incredibly shortsighted and self-serving!
Although I did not vote Trump, I fully realize the brilliance of his global strategic thinking [whether it is his or he has a brain trust] - - it is farsighted and imbued with both national, physical and economic survival - - something deeply missing these past 50 years or so!
If the indoctrinated ones, those who worship mindless teleprompter readers like Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw or the CIA's Anderson Cooper, cannot see this that suggests their own cognitive shortcomings.
This was a very informative book, the author offers a glimpse into a world and culture I have little frame of reference for. While I can personally understand the religious moral view of the people she talked to and some of the super conservative views, as I grew up with and am surrounded by those opinions, I can't wrap my head around the lack of environmental clean up and regulation or how the people are willing to just live with the consequences. These are anathema to everyone in the area I live and I can't even imagine the hoopla that would exist should something like this occur.
I did come out of reading this with much better understanding of the American conservative right. The authors analogy about everyone cutting in line ahead of the lower class white family and how frustrated they are with feeling like everyone gets to the American dream before them (even the Brown Pelican) illustrated for me a piece of the puzzle I was missing.
The unconscious racism that still exists here was also eye opening for me, I like to think I'm enlightened and don't do or think like this but I'm sure I do. The fact that some of this racism is so blatant, at least to my politically correct brain, is curious. What is not considered racism there is definitely not acceptable where I am, I would get the most shocked looks and would more than likely be told off in no uncertain terms.
Democrats and their ideals are perceived to be a threat to a way of life and judgement against a moral code. This isn't new, how many people have I talked to who grew up in the 50s that think it was better back then?? It wasn't as rosy as they remember, there were massive global issues, lots of crime, plenty of moral degenerates, it was never Leave it to Beaver like. They just hid everything, and I don't think that was a good way to live.
To look at all of this from a different perspective and see what they see, whether I agree or not, was enlightening though. It has given me a better appreciation for what these poor states are up against, both in the populaces demands for immediate solutions and the big corporations that abuse the system. It's a tricky problem and it's going to be tough to fix, especially with the wish to deregulate rather than regulate that permeates the region.
Understanding each other and crossing the cultural divide is critical to making our country a better place for everyone. This book helped me understand what some in southwestern Louisiana hold dear and some of our similarities and differences.
i have lived in several different states that voted for Trump (Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas). I traveled to Louisiana for my job when I lived in Texas. I know there are many good kind people who care about others and their communities in all of these places. Still I have found it baffling why so many felt like Trump was an answer to what ails them.
Strangers in Their Own Land provides a view into understanding the feelings that drive the behavior of good people who think differently from me. Here's hoping this is a step toward finding common ground.
“Deer Hunting with Jesus : Dispatches from America's Class War” 2008
by Joe Bageant (1946-2011)
A Cal-Berkley sociologist spends several years investigating the ‘deep story’ of Tea Party members in an oil-rich county in western Louisiana, looking at the Great Paradox in their lives.
Hochschild looks at all aspects of these people’s lives and sees fierce independence, endurance and hard work as core beliefs. Well researched and very readable. Her insights into understanding the anger and betrayal felt by them helps me, definitely someone like she was on the other side of the ‘empathy wall.’
In the midst of this 2016 election, I thought "Strangers in Their Own Land" did a terrific job exploring the Tea Party conservative mindset of the Louisianans interviewed and these insights were made more powerful because the author holds distinctly different views. It is a good reminder that we need to strive for understanding of people who hold different beliefs and try to see the world from their shore, not just to stand on our shore and see them looking back. I highly recommend this book.
I'd recommend 'Strangers in Their Own Land' for anyone wanting to try and understand US politics today. We are one big country, but we are not the same - nor are likely to be any time soon. Hochshild respectfully examines the differences and demonstrates that respectfully 'talking about our differences' has value.