cover image Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

Arlie Russell Hochschild. New Press, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-62097-225-0

Hochschild (The Outsourced Self), a sociologist and UC–Berkeley professor emerita, brings her expertise to American politics, addressing today’s conservative movement and the ever-widening gap between right and left. Hochschild contends that current thinking neglects the importance of emotion in politics. Though touching lightly on objective causes, she goes searching primarily for what she names the “deep story”—emotional truth. She focuses on a single group (the Tea Party), state (Louisiana), and issue (environmental pollution), opening her mind—and, crucially, her heart—to the way avowed conservatives tell their stories. Her deeply humble approach is refreshing and strengthens her research. Hochschild discovers attitudes and behaviors around key concepts such as work, honor, religion, welfare, and the environment that may surprise those with left-leaning politics. She intrigues, for example, by showing that what the left regards as prejudice, the right sees as release from imposed “feeling rules,” and the “sympathy fatigue” that results. She skillfully invites liberal readers into the lives of Americans whose views they may have never seriously considered. After evaluating her conclusions and meeting her informants in these pages, it’s hard to disagree that empathy is the best solution to stymied political and social discourse. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Sept.)