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Journal Article


Savage M. Br. J. Sociol. 2019; 70(3): 755-760.


(Copyright © 2019, London School of Economics and Political Science, Publisher John Wiley and Sons)






Michèle Lamont is to be congratulated on writing such as impassioned yet also thoughtful and reflective account of the dilemmas and trauma of American society in the early twenty‐first century. Given the obdurate specialization which is part of and parcel of the sophistication in American social science, to produce this kind of synthesis is no easy task - yet she has accomplished it with authority and aplomb. Her concern to weave together macro trends associated with intensifying inequality and neo‐liberalism with the way these play out in the micro lives of ordinary Americans, showing the re‐entrenchment of racism, marginalization and stigma is a much‐needed, even if sobering task. This is a brilliant fusion, renewing the great American tradition of social thinking concentrating on the dilemmas of middle‐class America found in David Riesman et al.'s The Lonely Crowd (1950), C. Wright Mills, White Collar (1951); Robert Bellah et al.'s Habits of the Heart (1984), and David Putnam's Bowling Alone with an alternative urban ethnographic tradition which can be traced back to the Chicago school and has more recently been articulated in studies of racism and ethnic boundaries such as in the work of Mitchell Duneier (2015), Philippe Bourgeois (2003), and more recently Matt Desmond (2016).

I link Lamont's arguments to these older traditions deliberately as a starting point for my own reflections, for I want to begin by reflecting on the historical parameters of her account. Lamont argues that she is dissecting the distinctive production of a 'neo‐liberal' self which is triply disabling. Firstly, it is corrosive for the middle and upper classes who have previously been its principal beneficiaries, but now succumb to the stresses that its insistence on performance and striving poses to their mental health and well‐being. Secondly, it is also problematic for...

Language: en


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