Francesco Duina

 

On his book Broke and Patriotic: Why Poor Americans Love Their Country

Cover Interview of March 25, 2018

The wide angle

Broke and Patriotic is an effort to better understand and give voice to an important segment of the population that most of the country so often neglects. It also speaks to a body of research on the nature of patriotism. As it turns out, while scholars know quite a lot about American patriotism in general, and the patriotism of certain minorities or segments of society (African Americans, for instance, or immigrants, or women), no attention has been given to the country’s poor. Yet, as I noted earlier, so much depends on their attachment to and celebration of America.

The book also speaks to the rise in populism that we have witnessed recently in the Western world. While we may be living in the age of globalization, the nation-state is far from dead, contrary to the predictions of many social scientists. National identities are deeply rooted in the collective psyche, and this book tries to uncover some of the mechanisms and logics involved.

I was also interested in dispelling the notion, somewhat prevalent among some elitist segments of our population, that America’s poor are somehow stupid or have been duped into a sense of ‘false consciousness’, so as to pacify them and prevent them from seeking change. As I expected, many of the people I met were articulate, thoughtful, and able to justify with sophistication and a good sense of history their attachment to the country.

I came to write this book after completing two prior books on American culture. One, Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession (2011), examines the country’s unusually intense competitive spirit. The other, Life Transitions in America (2013), considers how mainstream American culture makes sense of major life transitions. As a young immigrant to this country, and as a sociologist for two decades now, I have been fascinated for some time by the ‘glue’ that holds this country together: its shared narratives, belief-systems, and values. I have also written quite a bit about globalization and national identity in Europe. The time seemed right to tackle this question.