Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?

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It is commonly assumed that the best way to help the poor out of their misery is to allow the rich to get richer, that if the rich pay less taxes then all the rest of us will be better off, and that in the final analysis the richness of the few benefits us all. And yet these commonly held beliefs are flatly contradicted by our daily experience, an abundance of research findings and, indeed, logic. Such bizarre discrepancy between hard facts and popular opinions makes one pause and ask: why are these opinions so widespread and resistant to accumulated and fast-growing evidence to the contrary?

This short book is by one of the world’s leading social thinkers is an attempt to answer this question. Bauman lists and scrutinizes the tacit assumptions and unreflected-upon convictions upon which such opinions are grounded, finding them one by one to be false, deceitful and misleading. Their persistence could be hardly sustainable were it not for the role they play in defending - indeed, promoting and reinforcing - the current, unprecedented, indefensible and still accelerating growth in social inequality and the rapidly widening gap between the elite of the rich and the rest of society.
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Additional Information

Publisher
John Wiley & Sons
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Published on
Jul 11, 2013
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Pages
86
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ISBN
9780745679211
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NAMED BY THE TIMES AS ONE OF "6 BOOKS TO HELP UNDERSTAND TRUMP'S WIN" AND SOON TO BE A MAJOR-MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD

"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

In our individualized society we are all artists of life - whether we know it or not, will it or not and like it or not, by decree of society if not by our own choice. In this society we are all expected, rightly or wrongly, to give our lives purpose and form by using our own skills and resources, even if we lack the tools and materials with which artists' studios need to be equipped for the artist's work to be conceived and executed. And we are praised or censured for the results - for what we have managed or failed to accomplish and for what we have achieved and lost.
In our liquid modern society we are also taught to believe that the purpose of the art of life should be and can be happiness - though it's not clear what happiness is, the images of a happy state keep changing and the state of happiness remains most of the time something yet-to-be-reached.

This new book by Zygmunt Bauman - one of the most original and influential social thinkers writing today - is not a book of designs for the art of life nor a 'how to' book: the construction of a design for life and the way it is pursued is and cannot but be an individual responsibility and individual accomplishment. It is instead a brilliant account of conditions under which our designs-for-life are chosen, of the constraints that might be imposed on their choice and of the interplay of design, accident and character that shape their implementation. Last but not least, it is a study of the ways in which our society - the liquid modern, individualized society of consumers - influences (but does not determine) the way we construct and narrate our life trajectories.
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