Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226734200 Published November 2020
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Inventing the Ties That Bind

Imagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life

Francesca Polletta

Inventing the Ties That Bind

Francesca Polletta

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226734200 Published November 2020
Cloth $95.00 ISBN: 9780226734170 Published December 2020
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226734347 Published November 2020
From deciding to hold the door for the person behind you, to resolving for whom you will cast your vote, every day we find ourselves charged with making moral decisions. What steers our choices? And how do we weigh competing priorities and moral convictions? In Inventing the Ties That Bind, Francesca Polletta shows that we do not solve these dilemmas, whether personal or political, based on self-interest alone. Instead, relationships serve as a kind of moral compass. People consider the nature of their ties to one another to know what their obligations are, and in situations that are unfamiliar, they sometimes figure out the right thing to do by imagining themselves in relationships they do not actually have. Polletta takes up a wide range of cases, from debt settlement agencies to the southern civil rights movement, revealing that our relationships and how we imagine them are at the heart of our moral lives—guiding us as we choose whom to help and how we define what it means to treat someone as our equal. In a time of growing polarization, understanding how we make sense of our ties to one another is more urgent than ever.


1 Relationships, Real and Imagined
2 Free-Riders and Freedom Riders
3 Whom One Owes
with Zaibu Tufail
4 Publics, Partners, and the Promise of Dialogue
5 The Art of Authentic Connection
6 Solidarity without Intimacy
7 The Uneasy Balm of Communication


Review Quotes
Ann Mische, Notre Dame University
“Reading through Inventing the Ties That Bind is like a jaunt through what you thought was a familiar public park or streetscape only to be jolted, over and over again, with a novel, provocative, or hard-hitting insight that makes the contours of the familiar leap into shimmering, breathtaking focus. The book is exciting, timely, ambitious, beautifully written, and is sure to have a broad audience.”
Wendy Espeland, Northwestern University
“This book is timely, original and wonderfully synthetic. While the cultural turn in the study of social movements has been well underway for some time, Polletta’s understanding of culture is far more sophisticated than that of many authors who work in this vein. Moreover, she speaks directly to some key debates in our turbulent political times, including how to talk to people across the many divides that fracture our polity.”
Paul DiMaggio, New York University
 "With whom do we bond?  Social science tells us it is with friends of friends, popular people, and those with whom we share social and organizational affiliations. Fair enough, but there are many exceptions—and when it comes to establishing empathy and social solidarity in complex societies, these exceptions may be more important than the rule. This book is about the exceptions, the ways in which people use analogy to construct relationships across social boundaries, and about why strategic recipes for producing such relationships usually fail to do so. In this subtle and insight­ful study, Polletta delineates the intimate links between sit­uation, imagination, interaction, and identity, providing signposts for reconstructing community in the face of anomie and polarization."
Michèle Lamont, Harvard University
“How can strangers be turned into people we feel solidarity with? This is the burning question that distinguished expert of social movements and deliberation Polletta takes on in her remarkable book. She examines evidence from across the social sciences about the relative value of various paths of action, which may include moral norms, self-interest, civility, emotions, rituals, advocacy, self-disclosure, and feel-good exercise. Through rich case studies, she argues against encouraging a culture of superficial intimacy. Instead, the secret sauce for 'solidarity across differences' is building imagined relationships over time through practice and 'relationship schemas.' As a wide-ranging contribution of stunning originality, Inventing the Ties that Bind deserves to have a broad readership from sociology, political science, and beyond."
Ann Swidler, University of California, Berkeley
"Seeking to transcend today’s constricted politics, Inventing the Ties that Bind probes the fundamental nature of identity and solidarity. With original research on cases from early Civil Rights organizing to professionally-curated civic dialogues, Polletta explores how people imagine–and reimagine–their relationships with others different from themselves. Polletta shows how, as social and moral beings, we can draw from existing relationship schemas–as family members, citizens, and friends–to imagine, and enact, more inclusive, just, and equal forms of cooperation and of struggle."
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