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Dimensions:
216 × 138 mm
192 pages
Format:
Hardback
ISBN:
9781780239026
Published:
12 Mar 2018
Series:
Field Notes

Hinterland America’s New Landscape of Class and Conflict Phil A. Neel

Over the last forty years, the landscape of the United States has been fundamentally transformed. It is partially visible in the ascendance of glittering, coastal hubs for finance, infotech and the so-called ‘creative class’. But this is only the tip of an economic iceberg, the bulk of which lies in the darkness of the declining heartland or on the dimly lit fringe of sprawling cities. This is America’s Hinterland, populated by towering grain-threshing machines and hunched farmworkers, where labourers drawn from every corner of the world crowd into factories and ‘fulfilment centres’. Driven by an ever-expanding crisis, America’s class structure is recomposing itself in new geographies of race, poverty and production.

Drawing on his direct experience of recent popular unrest, Phil A. Neel provides a close-up view of this landscape in all its grim but captivating detail, and tells the intimate story of a life lived within America’s hinterland.

‘Neel draws attention to the geography of class in Hinterland, identifying both a new working class and the global forces that have shaped it . . . It would be easy for Neel to claim to be an authority on class in rural America on the strength of his own upbringing, as authors such as J. D. Vance have done . . . Neel deliberately avoids this strategy . . . Instead of describing a sense of class that is anchored in a specific region, Neel emphasizes that upheavals and dislocation connect working-class experience across regions and continents . . . Neel doesn’t propose to solve any current "What’s up in Trump country?" debates. Instead he sets out to show the transformation, and often enough the hollowing out, of large tracts of twentieth-century life as the product of global capitalism. Hinterland is hectic and unsystematic but often tonic, not least because few people who think this way have seen most of the places Neel has, let alone from the standpoints he has sometimes occupied – rioter, prisoner, day laborer . . . [Neel’s book] honors the view from below or from the hinterland, where class is something that happens to you, like the weather but worse and more unrelenting. This emphasis has much to recommend it: ethically in its attention to lived experience, politically in its emphasis on concrete conflicts, intellectually in its alertness to variation and nuance . . . A meditation on the opacity of class experience, to those who live in it but also to those who theorize it.’ – New Republic

‘Imagine Patrick Leigh Fermor and Karl Marx on a road trip through the hubs and corridors, empty rural tracts and dreary outer suburbs of rust-belt America in search of a central authority to whom one could lodge a complaint, and find no-one home – in fact, home itself gone. Neel takes us on a breathless tour of "economic geography" as he looks for work in Los Angeles, labors on the range in Nevada, goes to jail after Occupy Seattle, all the while asking where, under capitalism, the US and the world is going. Ambitious, polemical, brilliant, this book reminds us of the very urgency of his question.’ – Arlie Hochschild, author of the New York Times best-seller and National Book Award finalist Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right

‘Hinterland is where the future slouches toward Bethlehem. Phil Neel’s dazzling journeys through the burned-over landscapes of end-time capitalism – the despoiled remnants of rural America, the exfoliating zones of suburban poverty – compel us to rethink what class conflict looks like not only in America, but around the world. The exhausted shibboleths of what’s left of the Left vaporize in the heat of his prose.’ – Steve Fraser, author of The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power

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Phil A. Neel was raised in a mobile home in the Siskiyou Mountains, on the border of California and Oregon. He writes regularly on diverse topics and currently lives in Seattle.

Introduction: The Cult of the City
1 Oaths of Blood
2 Silver and Ash
3 The Iron City
4 Oaths of Water
References
Acknowledgements