Title

Rugged Individualism and the Misunderstanding of American Inequality

Document Type

Book

Publication Date

2-2020

Department

Sociology

Language

English

Abstract

Rugged Individualism and the Misunderstanding of American Inequality explores and critiques the widespread perception in the United States that one’s success or failure in life is largely the result of personal choices and individual characteristics. As the authors show, the distinctively individualist ideology of American politics and culture shapes attitudes toward poverty and economic inequality in profound ways, fostering social policies that de-emphasize structural remedies. Drawing on a variety of unique methodologies, the book synthesizes data from large-scale surveys of the American population, and it features both conversations with academic experts and interviews with American citizens intimately familiar with the consequences of economic disadvantage. This mixture of approaches gives readers a fuller understanding of “skeptical altruism,” a concept the authors use to describe the American public’s hesitancy to adopt a more robust and structurally-oriented approach to solving the persistent problem of economic disadvantage.

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