Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

by Lisa Dodson
     
 

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Called a “fascinating exploration of economic civil disobedience” by Publishers Weekly, Lisa Dodson’s stunning book The Moral Underground features stories of middle-class managers and professionals who refuse to be complicit in an economy that puts a decent life beyond the reach of the working poor. Whether it’s a nurse

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Overview

Called a “fascinating exploration of economic civil disobedience” by Publishers Weekly, Lisa Dodson’s stunning book The Moral Underground features stories of middle-class managers and professionals who refuse to be complicit in an economy that puts a decent life beyond the reach of the working poor. Whether it’s a nurse choosing to treat an uninsured child, a supervisor padding a paycheck, or a restaurant manager sneaking food to a worker’s children, these unsung heroes reach across the economic fault line to restore a sense of justice to the working world.

This vivid account of working-class America is based on Dodson’s eight years of research and conversations with hundreds of Americans about the need to create ethical alternatives to rules that ignore the humanity of working parents and put their children and risk.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The documentary tradition at its very best." —Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Coles

"Lisa Dodson tracks a new civil disobedience [with] . . . fascinating . . .wrenching stories." —The Boston Globe

"If only this book had been published in 2007. Then the hundreds of people interviewed by Lisa Dodson would have been able to pass along an mportant piece of advice: What’s good for business is not necessarily good for America." —Time

"Important, encouraging reporting." —Kirkus Reviews

"[A]n intriguing record of the economic crisis and how some are choosing to survive it." —Booklist

"[A] fascinating, necessary book." —Corduroy Books

Publishers Weekly
In this fascinating exploration of economic civil disobedience, Dodson (Don't Call Us Out by Name) introduces readers to teachers, supervisors, health-care professionals and managers who bend the rules—and even break the law—to support those in need. Dodson shares stories of individuals like Linda, a health-care supervisor who has, against hospital policy, “driven an employee to court on work time” and allows her low-wage employees to manipulate the schedule so they can attend to child-care needs. The author interviews Cora, a restaurant manager, who came up with a “double talk system,” in which she keeps two sets of time sheets so that workers can attend to family issues and who says, “helping women meet their kids or do what they have to do is more important” than her chain restaurant's rules. Dodson's study is gripping and her argument is persuasive: we should not have to put compassionate Americans in a position where they have to choose between following rules and helping those who are trying to help themselves. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
Eloquent, rational analysis of the social intersections between middle-class working Americans and working-poor Americans, and the surprising daily efforts by bosses, teachers and healers to level this uneven economic playing field. Sociologist Dodson (Don't Call Us Out of Name: The Untold Lives of Women and Girls in Poor America, 1998) began researching what would become this book by studying the day-to-day balancing acts performed by working-poor parents in their efforts to raise families. In 2001, her focus shifted when one interview subject, a middle-class grocery-store manager, asked Dodson if she was curious how he ethically dealt with employing a low-wage workforce who couldn't support themselves on what he paid them. The author consequently discovered that in response to a market that seemingly institutionalizes poverty among its workers-one in four working Americans earn less than $19,000 annually-many supervisors, teachers and health-care workers simply break rules to secure the well-being of their workers, patients and students. Dodson's conclusions are quantifiable and surprising. Managers break the guidelines they were trained to follow because, as many tell her, "being asked to collude with rules that are immoral and treat people unfairly eventually will lead to acts of disobedience." Teachers openly reject curriculum and regulations that regard students as socioeconomically equal when, as most teachers note, they are anything but. Health-care workers cheat on insurance forms to care for uninsured patients. Dodson writes clearly and unsentimentally about this unorganized grassroots movement, grounded in notions of economic morality and spearheaded by everyday workersoperating in the front lines of America's current recession. The author rejects as conditional and subjective the American middle-class ideal of economic self-reliance and offers an alternate five-part solution to the worst social stratification since 1928. At the heart of this movement toward equality are common people who, Dodson writes, "reach the point where they break the rules-seek a moral underground-in order to treat others as they would be treated because, finally, that is the heart of decent society."Important, encouraging reporting.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781595584724
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
12/08/2009
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.82(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
If only this book had been published in 2007. Then the hundreds of people interviewed by Lisa Dodson would have been able to pass along an important piece of advice: What’s good for business is not necessarily good for America.
Time magazine

Eloquent, rational analysis… Dodson writes clearly and unsentimentally. Important, encouraging reporting.
Kirkus Reviews

Here is the documentary tradition at its very best – an alertly knowing inquirer and observer learns from a nation’s vulnerable and needy citizens how they keep striving to persist, make do, no matter the difficulties in their way (social, economic, political, and yes, alas, those grounded in senseless and callous bureaucratic rules, regulations). Here, too, is human resiliency, ingenuity put on record for us to consider, by a resourceful, knowing, and large-hearted teacher and writer.
—Robert Coles, Professor Emeritus Harvard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the “Children in Crisis” series

This beautiful and poignant book uses the voices of ordinary Americans to trace a deep cultural divide between those who feel moral obligations to others and those who don't. It goes beyond an account of the tender mercies people often provide one another to show how mercy itself can subvert dominant economic logic. It quietly urges us all toward a more profound understanding of our need for a stronger culture of resistance.
—Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of The Invisible Heart

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