Cover of Broke and Patriotic by Francesco Duina
Broke and Patriotic
Why Poor Americans Love Their Country
Francesco Duina


October 2017
240 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9780804799690



Why are poor Americans so patriotic? They have significantly worse social benefits compared to other Western nations, and studies show that the American Dream of upward mobility is, for them, largely a myth. So why do these people love their country? Why have they not risen up to demand more from a system that is failing them?

In Broke and Patriotic, Francesco Duina contends that the best way to answer these questions is to speak directly to America's most improverished. Spending time in bus stations, laundromats, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, public libraries, and fast food restaurants, Duina conducted over 60 revealing interviews in which his subjects explain how they view themselves and their country. He masterfully weaves their words into three narratives. First, America's poor still see their country as the "last hope" for themselves and the world: America offers its people a sense of dignity, closeness to God, and answers to most of humanity's problems. Second, America is still the "land of milk and honey": a very rich and generous country where those who work hard can succeed. Third, America is the freest country on earth where self-determination is still possible.

This book offers a stirring portrait of the people left behind by their country and left out of the national conversation. By giving them a voice, Duina sheds new light on a sector of American society that we are only beginning to recognize as a powerful force in shaping the country's future.

About the author

Francesco Duina is Professor of Sociology at Bates College, as well as Honorary Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia and Visiting Professor of Business and Politics at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the author of several books, including Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession (2011).

"This is superlative ethnography, allowing voices too little heard to speak for themselves, and to do so with pride. Social understandings can be furthered more by this book than by any other at present in the marketplace."

—John A. Hall, McGill University

"A superb book! Anyone who wants to know why poor Americans love their country should read Broke and Patriotic. Francesco Duina has gone to homeless shelters, laundromats, bus stations, and other public places to ask that question. The answers are startling and reveal much about people's deep and enduring beliefs in freedom, God, and the American Dream. The lessons Duina provides are especially important given the current state of American politics."

—John L. Campbell, Dartmouth College and Copenhagen Business School

"An excellent, timely book, which can help us understand the results of the recent elections. Unlike their affluent and educated compatriots, the American poor do not envy the rich. They are proud to be Americans and derive personal dignity from the membership in the nation. They feel they were given equal opportunities with everyone else in it and do not blame their poverty on society but take responsibility for it. The elite talk in the great cities would not make sense to them. A sociological counterpart of Hillbilly Elegy."

—Liah Greenfeld, author of Mind, Modernity, Madness