Elsewhere, U.S.A. : How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety
Over the past three decades, our daily lives have changed slowly but dramatically. Boundaries between leisure and work, public space and private space, and home and office have blurred and become permeable. How many of us now work from home, our wireless economy allowing and encouraging us to work 24/7? How many of us talk to our children while scrolling through e-mails on our BlackBerrys? How many of us feel overextended, as we are challenged to play multiple roles-worker, boss, parent, spouse, friend, and client-all in the same instant?
Dalton Conley, social scientist and writer provides us with an X-ray view of our new social reality. In Elsewhere, U.S.A., Conley connects our daily experience with occasionally overlooked sociological changes: women's increasing participation in the labor force; rising economic inequality generating anxiety among successful professionals; the individualism of the modern era-the belief in self-actualization and expression-being replaced by the need to play different roles in the various realms of one's existence. In this groundbreaking book, Conley offers an essential understanding of how the technological, social, and economic changes that have reshaped our world are also reshaping our individual lives.
Conley (Honky) makes a prescient analysis of how technology and free markets have transformed American life, comparing the mid-20th century American with the present-day incarnation. These are two very different animals-one compartmentalized and motivated by the traditional American ethos of success, and the other a psychological hybrid of impulses connected to work, pleasure, materialism and consumption. The results of this brilliant and, at times, chilling comparison, are manifest not only on these pages but in real life. "Cheap and easy credit," he writes, "has been a major reason why the United States recently dipped into negative savings for the first time since the great depression." Conley examines how, technology has altered how Americans earn and spend money, playing out the behaviors characteristic of "late capitalism," or simply an evolving economic system that, by attaching a price to virtually everything from child rearing to dating, has helped devalue people, the work they do and the material goods they desire. A sociological mirror, this book is equal parts cautionary tale, exercise in contemporary anthropology and a spiritual and emotional audit of the 21st century American. (Jan.)
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January 12, 2009
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