Acton Institute Powerblog

A ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ for family and civil society

Hillbilly ElegyWhile the federal government’s “war on poverty” achieved some progress towards meeting basic material needs, says Ray Nothstine in this week’s Acton Commentary, it has no answers to the deeper dilemma of dependency and hopelessness faced by many Americans.

One book that highlights the problem and that is receiving considerable attention this year is J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance uses his own story to depict a crisis of culture among the white working class, especially in Appalachia. When President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society programs over 50 years ago with an iconic visit to Eastern Kentucky, it produced forlorn images of families in dilapidated shacks. The region remains under siege by poverty.

The problem, in large part, as Vance explains, is wrapped up in cultural and family decay. Vance, who declares, “Poverty was a family tradition,” was able to break free from the cycle and escape a chaotic future by moving in with a grandmother. Stability in the home brought with it a possibility to change’s ones life trajectory.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).