The Moral Underground

How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

By Lisa Dodson
(New Press, Hardcover, 9781595584724, 227pp.)

Publication Date: December 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

Shop Local
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.


Here is a book that tells the real story of the countless unsung heroes who bend or break the rules to help those millions of Americans with impossible schedules, paychecks, and lives. Whether it is a nurse choosing to treat an uninsured child, a supervisor deciding to overlook infractions, or a restaurant manager sneaking food to a worker's children, middle-class Americans are secretly refusing to be complicit in a fundamentally unfair system that puts a decent life beyond the reach of the working poor.In a national tale of a kind of economic disobedience-told in whispers to Lisa Dodson over the course of eight years of research across the country-hundreds of supervisors, teachers, and health care professionals describe intentional acts of defiance that together tell the story of a quiet revolt, of a moral underground that has grown in response to an immoral economy.A hugely important book, as hopeful as it is searing and with profound implications, The Moral Underground combines narratives and social research to document a whole new phenomenon-people reaching across America's economic fault line-and provides a missing national account of the human consequences and lives behind the business-page headlines.

Praise For The Moral Underground

If only this book had been published in 2007. Then the hundreds of people interviewed by Lisa Dodson would have been able to pass along an important piece of advice: What’s good for business is not necessarily good for America.
Time magazine

Eloquent, rational analysis… Dodson writes clearly and unsentimentally. Important, encouraging reporting.
Kirkus Reviews

Here is the documentary tradition at its very best – an alertly knowing inquirer and observer learns from a nation’s vulnerable and needy citizens how they keep striving to persist, make do, no matter the difficulties in their way (social, economic, political, and yes, alas, those grounded in senseless and callous bureaucratic rules, regulations). Here, too, is human resiliency, ingenuity put on record for us to consider, by a resourceful, knowing, and large-hearted teacher and writer.
—Robert Coles, Professor Emeritus Harvard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the “Children in Crisis” series

This beautiful and poignant book uses the voices of ordinary Americans to trace a deep cultural divide between those who feel moral obligations to others and those who don't. It goes beyond an account of the tender mercies people often provide one another to show how mercy itself can subvert dominant economic logic. It quietly urges us all toward a more profound understanding of our need for a stronger culture of resistance.
—Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and author of The Invisible Heart

Indie Bookstore Finder

Update Profile