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Broke and Patriotic: Why Poor Americans Love Their Country (Studies in Social Inequality)

por Francesco Duina

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Why are poor Americans so patriotic? They have significantly worse social benefits compared to other Western nations, and studies show that the American Dream of upward mobility is, for them, largely a myth. So why do these people love their country? Why have they not risen up to demand more from a system that is failing them? In Broke and Patriotic, Francesco Duina contends that the best way to answer these questions is to speak directly to America's most impoverished. Spending time in bus stations, Laundromats, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, public libraries, and fast food restaurants, Duina conducted over sixty revealing interviews in which his participants explain how they view themselves and their country. He masterfully weaves their words into three narratives. First, America's poor still see their country as the "last hope" for themselves and the world: America offers its people a sense of dignity, closeness to God, and answers to most of humanity's problems. Second, America is still the "land of milk and honey:" a very rich and generous country where those who work hard can succeed. Third, America is the freest country on earth where self-determination is still possible. This book offers a stirring portrait of the people left behind by their country and left out of the national conversation. By giving them a voice, Duina sheds new light on a sector of American society that we are only beginning to recognize as a powerful force in shaping the country's future.… (mais)
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Disappointing. Having identified an interesting problem (why those living in poverty express more patriotism than those better off), the method he employs is no better than collecting random anecdotes. Because the informants were not randomly selected, their viewpoints cannot be understood as representative in any way. Granting that the poor in toto express more patriotism, we don't know if the viewpoints expressed here are typical of those who live in Alabama or Montana since he did not get the opinions of others. Moreover, gathering statements in a half-hour interview is not a credible way to ascertain what people really think; that approach just shows what they are willing to say to complete strangers who have paid them $25.

He would have been better off spending more time with fewer people, in order to obtain more complete understanding of how they construct their civic realities (in other words, do what Matthew Desmond, another sociologist who attempted some ethnographic description, did in Evicted.) There is no effort to see how consistent these opinions are over time, how they connect with any behaviors, or anything that would make this interesting. Perhaps worse still is that he deliberately presents an uncomplicated story by segregating out those who do not support his thesis (e.g., people living in poverty who are not patriotic), so we have no sense of how widespread those alternative views are. Even on its own terms, what we wind up is a caricature. He failed to push back on blatantly wrong facts, even to find out where they're getting such misinformation (e.g., almost all expressed the opinion that America treated its poor better than other countries, although this is incorrect).

In sum, Duina shows that some poor people express patriotic beliefs that often work against their own interests (e.g., everyone is poor due to their own choices, and not because there are any structural hurdles to success. People are rich because they've worked hard and earned it, and people are poor because they are lazy and make poor decisions). Beyond illustrating that such positions exist, due to the poor methodology there is very little that can be done with this hodge-podge of opinions, though. ( )
  dono421846 | Nov 7, 2017 |
A real eye-opener! Interviews with 63 poor and patriotic Americans revealed an attitude and rational I could have never predicted or imagined. ( )
  snash | Oct 9, 2017 |
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Why are poor Americans so patriotic? They have significantly worse social benefits compared to other Western nations, and studies show that the American Dream of upward mobility is, for them, largely a myth. So why do these people love their country? Why have they not risen up to demand more from a system that is failing them? In Broke and Patriotic, Francesco Duina contends that the best way to answer these questions is to speak directly to America's most impoverished. Spending time in bus stations, Laundromats, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, public libraries, and fast food restaurants, Duina conducted over sixty revealing interviews in which his participants explain how they view themselves and their country. He masterfully weaves their words into three narratives. First, America's poor still see their country as the "last hope" for themselves and the world: America offers its people a sense of dignity, closeness to God, and answers to most of humanity's problems. Second, America is still the "land of milk and honey:" a very rich and generous country where those who work hard can succeed. Third, America is the freest country on earth where self-determination is still possible. This book offers a stirring portrait of the people left behind by their country and left out of the national conversation. By giving them a voice, Duina sheds new light on a sector of American society that we are only beginning to recognize as a powerful force in shaping the country's future.

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