Since the 1970s, sociologist Arnie Russell Hochschild has been a prolific and influential investigator of the impact of modern American economy and culture on people and their families. Her early works include The Unexpected Community: Portrait of an Old Age Subculture (1973) and The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling (1983).
In 1989, Hochschild published The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home. Her biography in Contemporary Authors Online describes that book’s impact:
[In] addition to maintaining the demanding careers they started before becoming mothers, most women do about 75% of the housework in their homes and 80% of the child-care tasks in their families. In other words, after putting in a full day at the office, they also come home to work a “second shift” that adds up to an entire month of twenty-four-hour work days each year.
© 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning
Now Hochschild has published Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (2016). The February 2017 issue of Friends Journal includes an in-depth review of Strangers in Their Own Land by Pamela Haines.
Haines writes that “Hochschild chose to focus on Louisiana Tea Party communities in the heavily industrialized and polluted stretch of the lower Mississippi known as Cancer Alley. Over five years of in-depth visits, she surprised herself by making friends and finding her own way over the empathy wall.”
In the following excerpt from the review, Haines speaks to the scaling of that wall.
Their economic and emotional self-interests do not align. Those who value a clean environment—and these are hunters, fishers, and outdoorsmen—can’t afford to grieve, with all the weight of industry and local government focused on jobs, forgetting, and moving forward. At the same time, they are enduring the worst of an industrial system, the fruits of which liberals enjoy from a distance in their highly regulated and cleaner blue states.
Hochschild identifies three ways people respond to this bind: the team players who are loyal to their group, even though it’s imperfect; the religiously inclined who know you have to give up things that you love for a higher good; and the cowboy types who would prefer to stand brave against danger than to be risk-averse. These are qualities that resonate….
The final scaling of the empathy wall comes with what Hochschild calls the deep story: Imagine waiting patiently in line for the American Dream, which lies just over the hill. It’s a long line that doesn’t seem to be moving anymore. Worse, others are cutting in.
Strangers step ahead of you in line, making you anxious, resentful, and afraid…. A person ahead of you in line insults you as an ignorant redneck, making you feel humiliated and mad. Economically, culturally, demographically, politically, you are suddenly a stranger in your own land….
You are a victim without a language of victimhood.
Pamela Haines is an active member of Central Philadelphia Meeting. She works on leadership development and organizing for policy change among child-care workers, teaches peer counseling, leads family play groups, organizes around faith and economics, works on a variety of urban gardening ventures.