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Those Who Work, Those Who Don't

Poverty, Morality, and Family in Rural America

2009
Author:

Jennifer Sherman

Those Who Work, Those Who Don't

Following the stories of economic collapse in a Northern California town and what they tell us about rural America

Compellingly written, shot through with honesty and empathy, Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is a rare firsthand account that studies the rural poor. As incomes erode and the American dream becomes more and more inaccessible, Sherman reveals that moral values and practices become a way for the poor to gain status and maintain a sense of dignity in the face of economic ruin.

Smart, insightful, and highly readable, this book offers a ground-level account of white rural poverty and the power of moral ‘traditionalism.’ With compassion and respect, Jennifer Sherman provides a captivating story of the complex social alchemy that can lead from economic hardship to the creation of exclusionary communities. A must read for all those interested in poverty, the morality wars, and the cultural politics of class, race, and gender in American society today.

Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke with Children

When the rural poor prioritize issues such as the right to bear arms, and disapprove of welfare despite their economic concerns, they are often dismissed as uneducated and backward by academics and political analysts. In Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t, Jennifer Sherman offers a much-needed sympathetic understanding of poor rural Americans, persuasively arguing that the growing cultural significance of moral values is a reasonable and inevitable response to economic collapse and political powerlessness.

Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is based on the intimate interviews and in-depth research Sherman conducted while spending a year living in “Golden Valley,” a remote logging town in Northern California. Economically devastated by the 1990 ruling that listed the northern spotted owl as a threatened species, Golden Valley proved to be a rich case study for Sherman. She looks at how the members of the community coped with downward mobility caused by the loss of timber industry jobs and examines a wide range of reactions. She shows how substance abuse, domestic violence, and gender roles fluctuated under the town’s economic strain.

Compellingly written, shot through with honesty and empathy, Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t is a rare firsthand account that studies the rural poor. As incomes erode and the American dream becomes more and more inaccessible, Sherman reveals that moral values and practices become a way for the poor to gain status and maintain a sense of dignity in the face of economic ruin.

Those Who Work, Those Who Don't

Jennifer Sherman is assistant professor of sociology at Washington State University.

Those Who Work, Those Who Don't

Smart, insightful, and highly readable, this book offers a ground-level account of white rural poverty and the power of moral ‘traditionalism.’ With compassion and respect, Jennifer Sherman provides a captivating story of the complex social alchemy that can lead from economic hardship to the creation of exclusionary communities. A must read for all those interested in poverty, the morality wars, and the cultural politics of class, race, and gender in American society today.

Sharon Hays, author of Flat Broke with Children

Sherman’s work adeptly highlights complexities of rural poverty that cannot be fully explained by theories developed to explain social problems in urban areas.

Times Higher Education

The topics of welfare, poverty, and morality are timely to the current economic recession, providing insight into the challenges rural, conservative communities face today. Highly relevant.

Choice

A vivid description and clear analysis.

Suomen Antropologi

Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t also offers a profound analysis of American political culture. . . . Progressive strategists would do well to read this book, to better understand the enduring moral values that underlie this world view, how they are lived on a daily basis by millions of Americans, and what potential openings might exist for challenging the hegemony of these beliefs.

Enterprise & Society

Jennifer Sherman provides an analysis in Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t that is a refreshing and much-needed addition to the urban-centric ethnographic literature. Sherman gracefully draws on the key findings from urban ethnographies about family life, support networks and employment while demonstrating how these social processes unfold differently in rural America.

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Insightful and stimulating... Highly recommended as a primary source for anyone desiring to understand life in rural America.

Journal of Rural Social Sciences