Publisher: Reaktion Books
Released: March 12, 2018
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