Eric Klinenberg, 2020: The Year Everything Changed

Was 2020 the year Americans finally lost faith in their government? We talk with Eric Klinenberg about his acclaimed new book, 2020: One City, Seven People, And The Year Everything Changed.

The book follows seven New Yorkers as they try to cope with the pandemic. Among them, a transit worker, a bar owner, a retired lawyer who organizes a mutual aid network and a Black Lives Matter protester. Their stories and those of the others illustrate how our leaders and institutions failed us — and how some citizens stepped into the breach.

Then, in February 2021 we spoke with journalist John Nichols about why President Biden’s bold plan for Covid relief was defeated by the Republicans, joined by a few centrist Dems. We listen back to that conversation.

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2020: Covid, Black Lives Matter, Culture Wars

2020 was a momentous year in our nation’s history. The worst pandemic in a century was raging. The country saw the largest protest movement ever, with people of all races uniting in support of Black Lives Matter. The economy plummeted and the government spent trillions trying to keep people afloat.

It was also the year that many Americans lost the last shred of faith they had in our institutions. Yet, you hardly hear anybody talking about what happened that year.

That’s why Eric Klinenberg’s book is so important. He follows seven New Yorkers whose experiences illuminate how Americans reckoned with 2020. The book vividly captures these stories, casting them against the backdrop of a high-stakes presidential election, a surge of misinformation, rising distrust, and raging protests.

Klinenberg’s book 2020 not only helps us reckon with what we lived through, but also with the challenges we face before the next crisis arrives.

About The Author

Eric Klinenberg is an American sociologist and a scholar of urban studies, culture, and media. He teaches Social Science at NYU and is Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge. In addition to 2020 Klinenberg is the author of several books, including Fighting For Air and Going Solo, both of which we spoke to him about on this show.

Listen to an audio excerpt from 2020