Book Review: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Title: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy
Publication Info: [Ashland, Or.] : Blackstone Audio, 2007.
ISBN: 9780786157686

Other books I’ve read by the same author: Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America and Bait And Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.


I’ve enjoyed other books by Ehrenreich and figured that this would be a take on public celebrations like Carnivale and sporting events.  These things get a mention toward the end of the book and Ehrenreich makes a (convincing) case that what passes for collective joy in modern times is merely a shadow of the ecstatic experience of our ancestors.  Ehrenreich goes way back to prehistoric peoples by way of the “primitive” cultures encountered (and destroyed) by Europeans in the Age of Exploration.  Early Christianity seems much more lively due to it’s overlap with the Dionysian cult.  And while today we fear crowd ecstasy due to it’s association with Italian Facist and Nazi rallies, Enrenreich deconstructs what were actually carefully staged performances rather than expressions of the mob mentality.  Overall this is an interesting analysis of a fascinating topic.

Recommended books: The Case for God by Karen Armstrong
Rating: ***

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