An economist takes on the evolution of the global loneliness crisis, the sweeping impact of social isolation during the coronavirus, and the opportunities a post-COVID world presents to reverse these trends by finding new ways to reconnect with each other, our communities and even our democracy.
Hertz builds a wide-ranging, convincing argument that the way we live now is profoundly atomised—missing many of the casual and deeper human connections that used to be commonplace ... This book is a crucial call to arms ... If we could issue a reading list to 10 Downing Street, I’d put this book near the top.
Hertz’s perspective is broad—provocatively so. She intentionally conflates the angst of individual solitude with political alienation, social atomization, and economic marginalization ... To Hertz, loneliness is, in large part, an artifact of harsh, unrestrained capitalism—what she confusingly calls 'neoliberalism' ... Her idealism peaks in her push for people to connect across political and geographic divides. The recommendation, however well-intentioned, exposes the fault lines in her expansive definition of loneliness. Could trying to talk politics, or even the most anodyne of topics, with a die-hard Trump supporter ease the ache of a Democrat on a lonely Saturday night? It seems doubtful—a mismatch between problem and solution. Most of Hertz’s program, in any case, will have to await the return of normalcy, or whatever passes for it.
With plenty of anecdotes and scholarly referenced footnotes, the author meticulously picks apart our everyday world to reveal the many wellsprings of our loneliness, and she points to helpful first steps to deal with it. The trick, writes Hertz, is 'to reconnect capitalism to the pursuit of the common good and put care, compassion and cooperation at its very heart.' Of course, that is quite the undertaking; some readers may even consider it impossible, but many will find some comfort in these pages ... An alternately dispiriting and bracing dissection of loneliness and how to build community from the ground up.