Arlie Hochschild’s “Deep Story”

I’ld like to continue from the last post in examining the structure and meaning of sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s “Great Paradox” and the role and meaning of the “deep story” as described there. If you think about her “deep story”, you may come to realise that it is a secular myth, and describes, in words, this

annuit coeptis

The “hill” in Hochschild’s story upon which everyone is queued is the “pyramid of sacrifice”, as you may glean from her description of the “deep story”. It is also the Sacred Mountain, or, if you prefer, the Magic Mountain. At the summit of the Magic Mountain lies the Temple of Happiness, which may also be called “Prospect” or “Future” or “Having It Made” of “Easy Street” or “the Penthouse”. In the queue, everyone is trying to claw and scrabble their way up the Magic Mountain to reach the Temple of Happiness, or like Sisyphus rolling his heavy rock up the Magic Mountain only to have it roll back down on them again, as in Camus’ tale The Myth of Sisyphus. It might even be considered Niel Young’s “Sugar Mountain“. If the rock is rolling back down again, though, somebody’s to blame. Somebody’s rigging the game because the field isn’t level.

If you are familiar with Adam Smith’s economic theories, you will recognise the “deep story” also as Smith’s model of free market economics that he described in “the Parable of the Poor Man’s Son” from The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

In those terms, the “deep story” isn’t particularly unique to American politics at all. It’s a myth of modernity which imparts to the capitalist or secular order a kind of profane meaning that is borrowed from sacred literature.

If you’ve seen the movie “High-Rise“, or “Snowpiercer” (as discussed earlier) you will see the same secular myth or “deep story” only now become quite dystopian.



2 responses to “Arlie Hochschild’s “Deep Story””

  1. abdulmonem says :

    I was thinking of Sherman whether to call him a hero or a zombie and how he did his wrong work in darkness knowingly, at the order of his boss and to boast at his end that he has stocks at the company that crippled him. I was thinking also of the trapped mentality in a single vision, the single vision that has been sit in motion by Smith and the like. I was thinking about how the overall paradoxical visions of our cosmos being caged in a cavern as the adage of Blake stated, how the principle of the divine paradox is enslaved in left and right terminology or other contrasted opposites . It is another story of those who buried themselves in the coffin of the parts forgetting the whole. It is a painful situation and if one has no faith he will terminate his life like your friend who could not bear it. Life is a very difficult journey, Mohammad tells god they are liars and have no faith, god tells him to forgive and wait, for our plan is a long term plan that gives the human all opportunities to change and we know when to take action, your task is to say the word of truth like all the prophets that have passed. We are living in a time where everyone is the prophet of himself and help others after he has realized his spiritual maturity.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    there’s another piece in today’s Guardian that adds further to the meaning of Hochschild’s “deep story” or secular myth as civic religion

    This one is more attuned to US history, while my interest is more in the “deep story” as it pertains to the modern era more generally. But I certainly like that term “deep story” because it corresponds to what the indigenous call “the white man’s dreaming” (although that really means “modernist”).

    Revolutions are, in effect, uprooting and exposing a culture’s “deep story” as “deficient”, and replacing it with another one. But understanding the deep story and making it transparent is the first step. That is, in some respects, what Gebser as cultural philosopher has tried to do by highlighting the mythical and magical influences in contemporary thinking.

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