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Essay 4 – The Political Divide


We are reading the book Strangers in Their Own Land, in which a sociologist from Berkeley examines the world view of people who live in a much more conservative part of the country: rural Louisiana. This portrait of the Tea Party gives us a deep sense of how conservatives think in America. This portrait manages to get over what Hochschild calls the “empathy wall,” as it is frequently difficult for conservatives and liberals to understand each other’s point of view.


Though the environment is the “keyhole” issue Hochschild uses to examine the views of her interviewees, we get glimpses of their ideas about other contemporary issues as well. Choose ONE of these issues (not the environment):

  • Affirmative Action
  • Jobs
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender and/or Sexuality
  • Taxation
  • Welfare
  • Immigration

In an essay of between 2000 and 2500 words answer the question:

How is the issue you have chosen to study perceived by commentators on both the right and the left in America? Is dialogue possible between these two points of view? How?

The book will be a primary source; that is, you will cite the book frequently in your essay to show Hochschild’s interviewees (whose political views are to the right) view this topic, and you should use some of her key terms, such as “deep story,” “empathy wall,” etc.

You will also do research to supplement the book. Examine representative points of view on your topic from across the political spectrum, and includeacademic research on the political divide or on views of these issues.

You must use 4 sources other than your book, including at least one academic journal article.


  • 2000 words minimum
  • Five sources:
    • Strangers in Their Own Land
    • Four other sources that show views from the left and the right
    • One of these sources must be an academic journal article
  • MLA citations and Works Cited page

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