Crossing Divides in a Precarious Future: The White Working Class and the Upcoming General Election

Arlie Russell Hochschild, Sociology, UC Berkeley and Rachel Min Park, Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion

As part of the Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic, Arlie Russell Hochschild (UC Berkeley Department of Sociology) and Rachel Min Park (Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion) sat down to discuss the rise of the American right, the polarization of politics, and the dismantling of the working class. Building upon her concept of “empathy walls” posed in her 2016 book, Strangers in Their Own Land, Prof. Hochschild contextualizes the role of empathy and the possibilities it provides in the current, unprecedented moment of global crisis. In doing so, she highlights the sociohistorical process that has led to the marginalization of white, rural, and poor American voters, as well as their current struggles. She concludes with possible actions to take in ensuring empathy is a more reciprocal act, for both before and after the upcoming November 2020 General Election.   


Arlie Russell Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. She is the author of nine books, including The Second ShiftThe Time BindThe Managed HeartThe Outsourced Self, and Strangers in Their Own Land (The New Press). Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and her work appears in sixteen languages. The winner of the Ulysses Medal as well as Guggenheim and Mellon grants, she lives in Berkeley, California. She is also the author of numerous op-eds, most recently one in The Guardian on Donald Trump’s electoral strategy.

Rachel Min Park is a freelance translator, film critic, and researcher. She received her BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley and her MA in Korean Studies from Korea University. Her translations have appeared in Korean Literature Now and the Verso blog, and her film criticism can be found at Koreanfilm.org. Broadly speaking, her research interests include modern Korean literature and film, gender and social movements, and critiques of racial capitalism.

As part of the Berkeley Democracy and Public Theology Program, BCSR’s Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic brings together scholars and the public to address the current pandemic and its commensurate crises, exploring the intersection between religion and timely topics such as the environment, public health, elections and democracy, religious freedom, and nationalism in order to foster dialogue and reflection.

The Berkeley Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic is generously sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation