In Stolen Pride (New Press, Sept.), sociologist Hochschild studies conservative politics in a Kentucky town.

Your 2016 book Strangers in Their Own Land also examined conservative politics in rural America. Why return to the subject?

A lot has happened since Strangers. I think we’re in a new and more dangerous moment, and I wanted to understand that moment. One guy that I interviewed in Pikeville, Ky., described Donald Trump as lightning in a jar. I wanted to understand that lightning. What’s the excitement? How does charisma really work? How does what Donald Trump says get heard? I don’t think I got there with Strangers.

What do you think was missing?

A full understanding of the importance of pride and shame as an emotional layer underneath political talk. In red state rural areas hard hit by post-’70s globalization, the bad news was viewed through a lens of high individualism that believed “if I strike it rich, that’s my pride” and “if I fail, that’s my personal shame.” It’s an economic story of hard luck coupled with a cultural prism that tends to place personal blame on individuals for that hard luck. Whereas in blue states, there’s better economic news, but also economic news is understood through a less individual-centric cultural lens. That makes red states a prime target for someone for whom shame is almost a political ore that he picks for. Trump has what I would call a “shaming ritual.” First, he’ll say something transgressive. Then, he’ll make himself the victim of shaming from a punditry that says “you can’t say that, that’s not American.” Then he’ll roar back at his shamers. I think of this as a very powerful ritual that satisfies. Some of the people I came to know, I ran my interpretation of this ritual by them and they would know what I was talking about—this cathartic performance of shame was recognized as part of his appeal.

When did you realize pride and shame were central to your research?

I noticed that people were very hesitant to speak with me. In 2017, coal jobs are out, opiates are in, they’re struggling with all that—and now a white nationalist march is coming to town, which is what I was there to cover. When I’d ask people “what do you think about this white nationalist march,” they’d respond, “Why are you interested in that? Are you going to say something bad about us?” That was a clue to the fear that I would shame them. When Lyndon Johnson went to Inez, Ky., in ’67 to initiate the war on poverty, photographers took pictures of barefoot children with tousled hair and residents felt shamed before the nation. Many liberals saw the initiative as a good thing, but that wasn’t the message as it was received there. The message there was “we are shamed.”