A renowned sociologist and bestselling author examines a year of upheaval and conflict, showing how the pandemic and the crises it spawned reveal the true character of our societies: Who we are. What we value. Whose lives matter. A deeply reported, character-driven, unforgettable investigation of a time when nothing was certain and everything was at stake.
For the acclaimed sociologist Eric Klinenberg, “2020” refers to both a pivotal year in world history and the opportunity it created for seeing ourselves more clearly. The Covid-19 pandemic did not distort reality; instead, it revealed and accentuated dividing lines that have long splintered societies around the world, and proved especially destructive in the United States. Against the backdrop of a high-stakes presidential election, a surge of misinformation, rising distrust, and raging protests, 2020 is a piercing account of how the U.S. and other nations handled the extraordinary challenges of that seminal year.
Klinenberg digs deep into the social life of the pandemic to show how factors beyond the virus and the body determined who lived, who died, who fell behind, and who flourished. At the heart of this book are seven vivid profiles of ordinary people—including an elementary school principal, a bar manager, a subway custodian, and a local political aide—whose stories show how Americans, and communities across the globe, reckoned with 2020, from the tragedies and losses to the mutual aid networks and social movements that hinted at a better world to come. We move from the epicenter in New York City to epidemiological fights in Wuhan and Beijing. We see how leaders in London and Washington D.C. made the crisis so much more lethal than was necessary, and how scientists, citizens, and policy makers in Australia, Japan, and Taiwan worked together to save lives.
According to Klinenberg, what we learn from the crisis of 2020 will help shape our responses to the emerging challenges of the 21st-century—not only future pandemics but also the escalating climate emergency, the ongoing threats to racial justice, and global economic disparities. This book is both mirror and roadmap—a reflection of who we are at this crucial moment in world history, and a set of principles for how we might approach the next catastrophe differently.
“A sociological investigation of an unforgettable year. Klinenberg profiles a radicalized bar manager, a determined school principal, and a cast of Americans whose stories reveal how 2020 reshaped life in the United States. By asking fresh questions—Why did crime and social division spike in the U.S. but not elsewhere? How did masks get so politicized?—2020 compellingly reveals what the pandemic laid bare about our culture, our institutions, and ourselves.” —Matthew Desmond, author of Poverty, by America and Evicted
“A gripping, deeply moving account of a signal year in modern history, told through the stories of seven ordinary people trying to survive at the epicenter of the crisis, Klinenberg’s narrative not only exposes the social fault lines that made 2020 epically traumatic but also shows how the legacy of that year continues to shape us, our politics and our personal lives.” —Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies