Inventing the Ties That BindImagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life

Inventing the Ties That BindImagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life

Francesca Polletta

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226734170

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


At a time of sharp economic inequalities and political polarization, Inventing the Ties that Bind explores how Americans cooperate in workplaces, grassroots social movements, unions, churches, humanitarian initiatives, and civic forums. It focuses on people’s ideas about what joins them, and it shows how they use those ideas—those imagined relationships—to deal with standard challenges of solidarity. The variety of relationship schemas on which people routinely draw suggests that contemporary civic efforts to build solidarity by way of experiences of egalitarian intimacy may be unduly narrow. In such efforts—in public deliberative forums, intergroup dialogues, civility initiatives, and advocacy efforts—people are taught to voice their values and experiences to strangers, who in turn should relate their own stories, with the promise that that mutual self-disclosure will bridge gulfs of political opinion, build citizens’ trust in their political institutions, and mobilize the powerful on behalf of the powerless. The book’s close examination of such efforts suggests that they often discourage the negotiation and outright challenge that democratic relationships require. But this is not to say that civic reformers should give up on the task of building solidarity, only that they should capitalize more fully on Americans’ rich vernacular of cooperation. Combining a theoretical investigation of the power of imagined communities with an empirical portrait of how Americans envision that which joins them, Inventing the Ties that Bind aims to rethink the bases of solidarity.