Strangers in Their Own Land

Strangers in Their Own Land

by

Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Themes and Colors
Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress Theme Icon
Government Regulation and Individual Freedom Theme Icon
The Environment and the Economy Theme Icon
Capitalism, Media, and Class Conflict Theme Icon
Personal Identity and Emotional Self-Interest Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Strangers in Their Own Land, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Trust, Empathy, and Political Progress

In Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Hochschild—a progressive sociologist from Berkeley—attempts to understand American political polarization by studying a community politically opposite from her own: conservative Christian whites in southwestern Louisiana. Although she is initially puzzled by many Louisianans’ political beliefs, as she gradually formulates a picture of their worldview, Hochschild learns that conservatives want many of the same things as liberals, such as effective government, a healthy economy, and “an honest…

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Government Regulation and Individual Freedom

Many of the Louisianans Hochschild interviews see government regulations as intended to limit rather than protect their freedom. In their view, a person’s freedom to do what they want is more important than ensuring that people are free from the harmful effects of others’ actions (for example, for many Louisianans, a chemical company’s freedom to dump waste in the river trumps a citizen’s right to be free from dangerous toxins). While Hochschild takes pains to…

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The Environment and the Economy

Hochschild focuses on environmental policy (and toxic pollution in particular) in order to understand the broader political dynamics of the white working-class Louisiana communities she studies. Most Louisianans reject laws that would limit pollution and guard against oil spills because they believe that environmental protection will hurt the economy. But Hochschild shows that environmental protections and economic growth are, in fact, entirely compatible. She exposes the alliance between corporate and government leaders that has encouraged…

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Capitalism, Media, and Class Conflict

Many Louisianans feel left behind by a federal government that has increasingly recognized the pleas of historically marginalized groups. Hochschild argues that, although Louisianans correctly recognize that their economic opportunities are dwindling, their downward mobility is the result of broader trends in global capitalism, rather than direct competition with affirmative action beneficiaries in the labor market. One important reason Louisianans resent minorities is that their understanding of these groups is based largely on media misinformation…

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Personal Identity and Emotional Self-Interest

Hochschild’s research begins with a pattern she calls “The Great Paradox”: she wonders why people in red states who need government help the most nevertheless consistently vote against that help. Whereas conventional analyses explain voting behavior through political self-interest (they assume that people will vote for whatever improves their lives), Hochschild argues that this assumption cannot sufficiently explain the Great Paradox. Rather, she sees emotional self-interest as the driving force behind many…

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