Hochschild’s new book on understanding the American right

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2016. Strangers in Their Own Land Anger and Mourning on the American Right. The New Press.

Strangers in their own land coverHochschild travels deep into a stronghold of the conservative right: Louisiana bayou country—an area on the brink of environmental crisis and suffering from poor health, widespread poverty, and low literacy rates and life expectancy. Her mission: to scale the “empathy wall” and do what so few of us do: trulylisten to the other side in order to understand why they believe—and feel—the way they do.

Over the course of five years, Hochschild situated herself in “red” America: she attends fish fries, gumbo cook-offs, Pentecostal church services and Trump rallies; visits schools, political party groups and oil-soaked wetlands; and engages in long, thoughtful conversations while pouring over photo albums, during card games, and over cookies at kitchen tables. Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that many on the political right have been “duped” into voting against their interests. In the right-wing world she explores, Hochschild discovers powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—which override self-interest, as progressives see it, and help explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. Even as Hochschild gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she champions, she discovers surprising common ground in philosophy (belief in fairness and hard work ), in ideas (“let’s get big money out of government,” one Tea Party member tells her) and in policy (“Lets ban the deposit of fracking waste in our nature preserves.”)

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