Strangers in Their Own Land
by Arlie Russell Hochschild
The New Press
Arlie Russell Hochschild recalls French sociologist Émile Durkheim’s idea of “collective effervescence” in explaining the appeal of Donald Trump: it was the unity of the strangers gathered around him, and not the man alone, who caused the excitement. And those protesters ejected from almost every Trump rally served only to reinforce the feeling of brotherhood. “The act of casting out the ‘bad one’ helps fans unite in a shared sense of being the ‘good ones’ … [and] no longer strangers in their own land.”
Hochschild, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, spent five years interviewing people in Louisiana to write this book about the political gulf separating left and right, and what she calls the “great paradox”: principled rejection of federal help from people who most need it. Her research sees her trying to break free of her “political bubble” to understand people who feel culturally marginalised on issues such as abortion, gay marriage and guns, and part of a besieged minority losing jobs, college places and welfare to perceived “line cutters” (immigrants, refugees and blacks). Strangers should be required reading – and not only because it emphasises the importance of empathy.