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The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economyby Lisa Dodson
Synopses & Reviews
"I pad their paychecks because you can't live on what they make."
Here is a book that tells the real story of the countless unsung heroes who bend or break the rules to help those millions of Americans with impossible schedules, paychecks, and lives. Whether it is a nurse choosing to treat an uninsured child, a supervisor deciding to overlook infractions, or a restaurant manager sneaking food to a worker's children, middle-class Americans are secretly refusing to be complicit in a fundamentally unfair system that puts a decent life beyond the reach of the working poor.
In a national tale of a kind of economic disobedience — told in whispers to Lisa Dodson over the course of eight years of research across the country — hundreds of supervisors, teachers, and health care professionals describe intentional acts of defiance that together tell the story of a quiet revolt, of a moral underground that has grown in response to an immoral economy.
A hugely important book, as hopeful as it is searing and with profound implications, The Moral Underground combines narratives and social research to document a whole new phenomenon — people reaching across America's economic fault line — and provides a missing national account of the human consequences and lives behind the business-page headlines.
"In this fascinating exploration of economic civil disobedience, Dodson (Don't Call Us Out of 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"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
"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
"Eloquent, rational analysis... Dodson writes clearly and unsentimentally. Important, encouraging reporting." Kirkus Reviews"
Book News Annotation:
Dodson (sociology, Boston College) describes an underground, if unorganized, world of resistance to economic abuse at the intersection of middle-income and lower-income Americans, such as the mother who leaves work secretly in order to care for her children or the manager who pads his employees' time cards because he knows they are just barely getting by. She explores the ethical views of middle-income and lower-income Americans in work, educational, and health cares settings with regards to economic disparities of pay and treatment and discusses how often people are driven to subverting the rules of their workplaces in order to address what they see as injustice, although she keeps description of the actual tactics and strategies deployed deliberately vague. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The untold story of a silent movement for economic justice — led by ordinary middle-class Americans who bend the rules to help the working poor movement.
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.
About the Author
Lisa Dodson worked as a union activist, an obstetrical nurse, and the director of the Division of Women's Health for the state of Massachusetts before becoming a professor of sociology at Boston College. The author of Don't Call Us Out of Name, she lives in Auburndale, Massachusetts.
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