The “least resistant personality profile”

A really disturbing extract from Arlie Hochschild’s new book, Strangers In Their Own Land. On loc 1445 she shares the profile of the “least resistant personality” offered by a consultancy firm in 1984, hired to advise on locating waste-to-energy plants in areas likely to provoke little resistance from the local community:

– Longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest 

– High school educated only 

– Catholic 

– Uninvolved in social issues, and without a culture of activism 

– Involved in mining, farming, ranching (what Cerrell called “nature exploitative occupations”) 

– Conservative 

– Republican 

– Advocates of the free market

Are there other examples of political passivity, a lack of inclination or capacity for collective action, being so nakedly modelled as a desirable goal?

2 Comments

  1. This is not surprising. I can’t help wonder however, what role (and I’m sure there is a role) race plays in this. In the United States, Environmental Racism is alive & well, where companies specifically target poor, minority neighborhoods to dump their waste. Their reasons may not be the same as above, but the results are the same. Poor, African-American neighborhoods may not be conservative “free marketers,” but they are generally uneducated, and least likely to protest – and if they do, their protests aren’t likely to be taken seriously by institutions.

    One only needs to look at the Flint, Michigan water crisis to see this. African-Americans protested for nearly a year, even with a University Biologist providing the science for their protest movement. It wasn’t until the bodies of the maimed and dead children started piling up that the water crisis received any attention.

    Reference: Kenneth Gould & Tammy Lewis (2009) “Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology” provides a good backdrop on the history of environmental racism, both locally and globally.

    There are enough parallels here to ask the question: How does the stereotype of “poor southern whites” fit into the environmental racism paradigm? It’s interesting to think about.

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