A book by Arlie Russell Hochschild. The New Press, New York, 2016.
Disturbed by the deepening political divide in the United States, Hochschild sets out to bridge the gap between her life as a professor of sociology at the University of California Berkeley and Republican voters in the Deep South.
Much of the book concerns a question that puzzles Hochschild: How is it that people who suffer the most from polluted air and water can be adamantly opposed to environmental regulation? She chose to conduct her interviews—and make new friends—in Louisiana, the state that the Social Science Research Council ranks dead last in overall health. As she accompanies her informants to industrial plants and Pentecostal churches, political gatherings and cookouts, a “deep story” emerges that accounts for this odd paradox and highlights the importance of emotion in shaping political views.
Hochschild attributes her warm reception to Southern hospitality and the fact that she was “writing a book about a divide that also troubled those I came to know.” Her empathy and capacity to listen provide a helpful model for anyone concerned about environmental issues.