An Academic View on the Right to Party Author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich talks about Dancing in the Streets, in which she gives a history lesson on collective joy and explains why humanity engages in large, ceremonial celebrations.
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An Academic View on the Right to Party

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An Academic View on the Right to Party

An Academic View on the Right to Party

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

From ancient Greek Bacchanalias and Roman Saturnalias to tailgating and Mardi Gras, we humans like to party. Taboos are broken, public nudity may ensue -inebriation sometimes, too. Throughout history, public revelry has had its critics. The Victorians saw it as vulgar pageantry, the stuff of savages and the underclass. The academic world, for the most part, has ignored it.

Author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich believes that the time has come to give these rituals and celebrations their due. In her new book, “Dancing in the Streets,” she explains why humanity engages in large ceremonial celebrations, describes the history of what she calls collective joy and the equally long story of its suppression.

Later in the program, Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal joins us with an early review of the Apple iPhone.

But first, dancing in the streets. If you have questions about the history, purpose and practice of these rituals, give us a call. We'd also like to hear from those of you who have been taken up by it. If you've been caught up in a crowd at a sporting event, a dance club, call. Tell us what it was like - 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is

And joining us now is Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of many books, including “Nickel and Dimed.” Her new one is called “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy,” and she joins us from NPR's bureau in New York City. Nice to have you on the program today.

Ms. BARBARA EHRENREICH (Author, “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy”): Oh, it's a pleasure to be with you.

CONAN: A few years back, you wrote a book about the human capacity for war. In some sense, is this book the flipside of that?

Ms. EHRENREICH: It's what drew me into it. This question about how can we get terrifically excited by each other, you know…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: …which could be bad. You know, it could be an excitement - the excitement of a nationalist rally, which could be a bad thing, or it - what I got more and more drawn toward is the happy excitement, the ways that people can generate joy just amongst themselves.

You know, our society is pretty much saturated. We're obsessed with sex, and we think of that as the, you know, the greatest form of pleasure that people could give each other and so on. We've sort of really lost sight of this archaic tradition of festivities and ecstatic rituals where people dance, feast, possibly drink, paint their faces, wear masks, costumes - that sort of thing.

CONAN: And you argue that, in fact, you believe we are hardwired for it, that in fact this has been an important part of our evolution.

Ms. EHRENREICH: I make the argument. It's somewhat speculative. But respectable evolutionary biologists like Robin Dunbar say, you know, the crucial thing for early human survival was to form groups larger than just family groups.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: You've got to have those larger groups for defensive purposes -either against other animals or possibly against other dangerous bands of humans - and that probably the glue for forming these groups was these sorts of danced rituals and big get-togethers and things. But that's the - as one neuroscientist put it, it's the biotechnology of group formation…

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: …is being able to kind of, well, dance and party together.

CONAN: And the biotechnology part is where people dance and they get caught up in these rhythms, and it's irrepressible. And they find themselves eventually - sometimes in these rituals - going into trances.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah, that's pretty fascinating. It's not all the time, I mean, because these things are really culturally controlled. It's not just a matter of people going crazy or going wild. Usually, when you have a festivity or an ecstatic ritual - this is in an, like a small-scale society, or even some contemporary examples like - well, Mardi Gras is very commercial. But, you know, there's a lot of preparation that goes into that, a lot of making of costumes and practicing of dance steps and new tunes that you're going to use.

So it's very culturally controlled, even as to whether or not you're going to experience this transcendent experience of trance, which maybe in a religious setting would be, yeah, fine - a Pentecostalist form of worship with people, you know, moving, perhaps even dancing, with a lot of music. It would be expected, perhaps, that some people would go off into an altered state, speak in tongues or whatever.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: At a football game…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. EHRENREICH: …with a lot of drinking and moving around, doing a wave or whatever and face-painting - no, you don't go into a trance.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, it depends how badly your team is doing, but…


(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: But I did want to ask - there's this fascinating little part you tell about - this is evidence an anthropologist found in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where they found a dancing ground where the entire tribe danced. And then over the course of just a few hundred years, the dancing ground got smaller as, first, a priestly class did it. And finally, it was just the very elite were allowed to dance.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yes, what seems to be a very ancient pattern is that as soon as you have societies with hierarchy in them, as soon as you have a kind of an elite, whether that's priests or warriors, there is - then there gets to anxiety about too much disorderly festivity or ecstatic rituals. Priests are very critical because, you know, what job is there going to be for them if people can directly contact the deities through these experiences of trance?

People, you know, people in power worry that things will get out of hand. As they - you know, they worried about the Greek women who celebrated - who worshipped the god Dionysus by, well, dancing wildly in the forest and into the mountains. This just was not what women should do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. EHRENREICH: So there was a lot of, you know, anxiety, and eventually in Rome, a very harsh, bloody repression and slaughter of worshipers of Dionysus.

CONAN: Suppression of this, as you suggest - and as that size of that dance ground in Oaxaca suggests - goes back a very long way.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yes. I mean, when we get a written record, we begin to hear this - sense this tension about ecstatic rituals or even dancing in the streets. Like David, the king of the - of Jerusalem, right?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: He danced through the streets after a victory and goes back to his wife. I think she was Michal. And she says, essentially, wow, how, you know, how unclassy of you, you know. That's not dignified, because an elite needs to keep its dignity as apart from the masses.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in this conversation. Our guest is Barbara Ehrenreich. Her new book is “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.” Our number, if you'd like to join us, is 800-989-8255 - 800-989-TALK. The e-mail address is And let's begin with Alex, and Alex is in San Rafael in California.

ALEX (Caller): Yeah, hi, I just wanted to verify what Barbara is talking about. For the last five years, I've been participating in a ecstatic, joyful dance practice called the Five Rhythms. And I have to say it's created an incredible community of people who share all their joy and also all their suffering. We take care of each other when people get sick, and we have large benefits for each other. And this practice is spreading all over the world. We have a teacher right now teaching it in Vietnam and Cambodia. (unintelligible)

CONAN: And the heart of this is dancing and music?

ALEX: Actually, the heart of it is dancing to a music that can provoke quite ecstatic, trance-like states in people and brings people together in ways that most of us have never experienced. It becomes kind of a temple or a church, the equivalent of a synagogue or a mosque for people.

CONAN: And how many at one time, Alex?

ALEX: We have up to 150 people doing it twice a week out here, and it's happening all over the country and all over the world and I think it fulfills that need. I mean, I've never a participant of anything like this before, and it took me a while to open up to it, but it definitely evokes exactly what Barbara is talking about. And the results are quite transformative, both personally, spiritually and politically. People become more active in collective actions together, and supporting things all over the world like they said. I think there is a way it accesses some hardwired part of ourselves that brings us closer to this.

CONAN: But Barbara Ehrenreich, it does have a - a little bit like those bonding experiences you write about.


CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah, I didn't know about this is. This is fascinating. You know, one of the things, you know the, sort of, plot of my book, is, you know, about the suppression of these things throughout history. But then, it's fascinating how you get it just popping up again and again, things like the Burning Man Festival.

You know, there's no, that's not a traditional anything, but it's created as an occasion for art and dance and music. Or the Berlin Love Parade, which is an annual event, which, at times, has drawn up to a million people into the streets. But I like what Alex is talking about.

ALEX: Yeah.

Ms. EHRENREICH: You know, because it sounds like it's a real community - forms around it, too. I like that.

CONAN: Hmm. Alex, good luck.

ALEX: Okay. Thank you.

CONAN: I appreciate the phone call. Let's go to Andy. Andy is calling from Portland, Oregon.

ANDY (Caller): Hi, Neal. Thanks for taking my call. Barbara, I'd be interested in you expanding a little bit on what you were just talking about. One of the places that I've found that the spontaneous expression of joy really is being preserved is in places like the rave dance culture, and the Burning Man culture, that have really grown to prominence in the last 10 to 15 years.

Having been to a number of events like this, I've always been really moved by the fact that you now see kids - take the drugs and everything out of it - you see kids organizing and getting together, you know, essentially out in the middle of nowhere to insist that they just be allowed to dance around and express joy and being alive.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah. I think that's terrific. I haven't been to the Burning Man Festival. I really - I have to go some time -

ALEX: I highly recommend it.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah. Some of my experiences, which weren't that many, of this sort of thing, go back to the 60's and have to do with rock and roll - that kind of thing - giving me a glimpse that there was this potential, this wonderful capacity in humans, which we don't even about in our culture.

We don't even have words for it. Collective joy, I find that rather clunky. But, you know, we have so many words to describe romantic relations between two individuals, or sexual attractions. We really are even at a loss for words for this.

CONAN: Hmm. Andy, thanks very much for the call.

ANDY: Thank you very much. You guys have a good day.

CONAN: Okay. And when we come back from the break, Barbara Ehrenreich, I want to ask you also about some of the ways that western science has tried to look at these kinds of rituals, and examine them. One of the things you write about is how psychology has been particularly handicapped by looking at these things, because psychology - at least Western psychology - has been focused very much on the individual, and these, as the word collective - as clunky as collective joy may be, these are fundamentally group efforts.

Anyway, 800-989-8255 if you'd like to join the conversation. 800-989-TALK is our phone number. Our e-mail address is I'm Neal Conan, we'll be back after the break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

This hour, we're talking about the human need to party, and how it's been suppressed over the years, but never quite squelched. Barbara Ehrenreich explored the world of collective ecstasy for her latest book called “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.” There's an excerpt you can read at our Web site,

Barbara Ehrenreich is with us from our bureau in New York City. We want to hear from you. Tell us if you've ever been swept up in a crowd at a sporting event, a festival or a church. Or if you have questions about the history and practice of collective energy - ecstasy, give us a call, 800-989-8255. 800-989-TALK.

And Barbara Ehrenreich, in your book, you write, (reading) To the self-admiring Western mind, any form of self-loss, other than the kind associated with romantic love, could only be pathological.

Ms. EHRENREICH: That's right. I mean, our Western traditions of psychology is about the individual as opposed to the group. Freud had just no way of comprehending the sorts of things I'm talking about now - the festivities and so on.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. EHRENREICH: There's a very interesting line in a letter he wrote his fiancée, where he said, you know, we, of course, don't like - I'm paraphrasing here - we don't like those crude things like the fairs, where people dance and stuff like that. We like to stay at home with a book. You know, that was sort of a Western, bourgeois idea, that there was something very lower class, even, quote, “savage and barbaric” about having a good time with large numbers of people.

And the only way Freud could understand it was in terms of some form of domination. There must be a witch doctor - that was the excuse - that was making indigenous people do this. There must be some leader that everybody is enthralled to. He could not understand it as an egalitarian sharing of a good time.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Elizabeth. Elizabeth calling us from Jacksonville in Florida.

ELIZABETH (Caller): Hi. Well, I am from Trinidad, and if Barbara knows, Trinidad has the best carnival in the world. I know everybody focuses on Brazil and Mardi Gras, but Trinidad is the home the steel band and the Calypso. And in Trinidad, it started as a celebration of the end of slavery, and of course, the French Creoles and the colonials, the English, would make sure these groups of people are very separate, because, of course, what they didn't understand, they feared.

And I think it also goes back to fearing where you see the natives or the local people gathering in numbers. I think those in power were always afraid that, okay, in some way, they're going to be overthrown. But Trinidad Carnival has evolved into one of the very best carnivals, and the fact is, people look forward to it. We always say in Trinidad that if people had more carnival, there would be less need for psychiatrists. It is -

Ms. EHRENREICH: Well, Elizabeth, one of my great ambitions is to get to the Trinidad Carnival. And there's a -

ELIZABETH: Oh, you have got to go steel band (unintelligible) -

Ms. EHRENREICH: I'm got to, yeah.

ELIZABETH: It's the only instrument, I think, developed in the 20th century. There is nothing like the sound of steel band. And what I do when I get depressed is I put on my Calypso and steel band music, and, boy, do I jump up. I -

Ms. EHRENREICH: Is it - the whole Trinidad Carnival history is fascinating because they're - in Trinidad, as in some other Caribbean islands, the carnival was often the occasions for slave revolts.

ELIZABETH: That's right.

Ms. EHRENREICH: You know, just as in Europe, in Medieval Europe, late Medieval Europe, and early modern Europe, carnival there was increasingly becoming an occasion for peasant revolts or revolts by the working class - urban working class.


Ms. EHRENREICH: So there's this political connection. You know, because it's - their people gain their strengths when they come together in the streets, and they see that they're strong. And, of course, there are little things like the fact that you have masking and loud music means it's possible to get away with some things you might not have on other days.

ELIZABETH: And our costumes have gotten brief - more and more brief. And the interesting thing is the French Creoles in the turn of the century. They would participate, but they would rope themselves off. And you would only see these bands of all white people, all French Creole, we called them local white people in Trinidad.

CONAN: I see.

ELIZABETH: But the fact is, now, it is really such a festival for everybody, and all the classes are side by side. That is the beauty of carnival. I absolutely adore it, I'm so sorry I'm not going home this February. I'm really depressed about it.

CONAN: Well, Elizabeth, maybe we'll go in your place.

ELIZABETH: All right. Hey, I will tell you who to stay by and where to go.

CONAN: Okay. Thanks very much for the call.

ELIZABETH: Okay. Uh-huh. Bye-bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's talk with Matt. Matt with us from Gainesville, Florida - the other side of the state.

MATT (Caller): Yeah. Hi. In case you didn't hear, on Monday, our football team, the University of Florida, won the football national championship.

CONAN: It was in all the papers. I heard something about that, Matt.

MATT: Yeah, yeah. You know, it some news coverage. But, right after the game, there were 10,000 people watching the game in our O'Connell Center, where we have the basketball games and lots of people have tailgates and everything, but immediately after that happened, everyone just randomly stormed the University Avenue and just blocked it there, they blocked everything off. People were climbing the light poles. They climbed on top of the buildings.

Surprisingly, no one got hurt. Everyone is actually really civilized, but it was just spontaneous, slightly drunken fun.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. That doesn't fit all of your definitions, Barbara Ehrenreich, fits some of them.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Well, no. I approve. I think an example, which is perhaps not quite as spontaneous, but very recent would, be the dancing in the streets that took place around James Brown's funeral - not the - you know, the display of his body at the Apollo Theater recently.

You know, the people came, and they turned that into a festival, which is one way, you know, it's certainly a traditional way of marking a death in Mardi Gras - in- excuse me - in New Orleans, in certain parts of the world.

CONAN: Matt, congratulations on your team's success.

MATT: All right, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an E-mail from Frank in Lawrence, Kansas. I, with my family and friends, regularly attend the event in the Nevada desert, Burning Man, where we are able to feel the ecstatic sense of being with the ones we love without the constraints of normal everyday life. The event really makes the other 360 days of the year bearable. And that last point - that's something that's also part of your book, too, isn't it, Barbara?

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yes. It's in - if you got to late, Medieval Europe, you would find people really spending most of their time partying in some form or another. In the 15th century, in France, one out of four days of the year was devoted to some kind of saints day, or some reason for a festivity. This is not counting the Sundays.

So, you know, this is what people did. They had to work hard - mostly agriculture work - work hard the rest of the time. But you didn't just work day after day for the sake of being busy or hard working. The real point of life was to celebrate.

CONAN: Let's get Bill on the line. Bill is with us from Jackson, Wyoming.

Bill (Caller): Hi. I just wondered if your guest thinks the period of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, when prohibition of alcohol, prohibition of marijuana and all of the other things that came in, was an indication of the beginnings of this authoritarian period in -

CONAN: I think she traces the beginnings a few thousand years earlier, Bill, but, what about those decades in particular, Barbara Ehrenreich?

Bill: I'm taking about this particular period.

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Well, I comment on those decades in particular, but there certainly are ways in which the war on drugs, in our own times, you know, is a, sort of, an excuse for cracking down of the festive behavior. Particularly, as a kind of a club - oh, I shouldn't say a club - as a tool for closing down clubs, preventing raids, all on the excuse that drugs might be involved.

CONAN: You even think back - I was watching a documentary the other night on the Gestapo, and their suppression of the swing kids in Germany.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Oh, yes.

Bill: Yeah, yeah.

CONAN: Bill, thanks very much for the call.

Bill: No problem.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail question from Dennis in Muncie, Indiana. Did you learn anything from the whirling dervishes of Ottoman Turkey?

Ms. EHRENREICH: I - this is not a survey, where I look at every single thing, but I am very interested in, and spend a small chapter on the suppression of fiesta ecstatic tradition within Islam - the rise of Wahhabist Islam, which is the antecedent of al-Qaida - it's a, sort of Saudi variety of Islam. And they came, and their initial hostility was directed not toward Christianity or Judaism, but towards Sufism within Islam. That is ecstatic danced forms of the religion. Same with the Taliban in the ‘80s -

CONAN: Yes, they banned music.

Ms. EHRENREICH: - and into the ‘90s.

CONAN: Yeah, yeah. Here's an e-mail. This is - we're getting a lot of e-mails like this. This one happens to be from Linda. Since my college days in the late ‘60s, I've attended dozens of concerts, such artists as Aretha Franklin, Santana, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, The Dixie Chicks and Joe Cocker. I think Barbara Ehrenreich might remember a couple of those bands.

The dancing of the audience seems to be an important part of the event. A local concert venue has begun to restrict dancing at the concerts. It seems to throw a wet blanket on the performers. Any comments?

Ms. EHRENREICH: Well, this goes back to the early days of rock and roll in the ‘50s, where, you know, what would happen at concerts was really a rebellion against the rule you were supposed to sit down and just passively watch things.

Kids would jump up, they'd start moving, they'd start dancing, they'd get in the aisles. Cops would come - because there were always cops at these concerts - stuff them back into their seats for a minute, turn around, and then the kids would jump up again.

There's something about rock and roll and certain kinds of music that you cannot sit to. And I would argue - and I do - that rock and roll, and many kinds of American music, have their roots in West African, ecstatic, religious music. It was meant to unify you as a group, to make you jump up and move. We can't ignore it.

CONAN: Let's get Solomon on the line. Solomon also calling from Portland, Oregon.

SOLOMON (Caller): Hello.


SOLOMON: Yeah, I just wanted to kind of, like, talk a little bit towards the fact that you had kind of mentioned it earlier, about how in the past like there used to be a lot of different days and whatnot set aside to -celebrations and things. It kind of seems like they keep societies and people together. But as times goes by, people are less and less draw together for certain events.

And those spontaneous big events like sports gatherings and whatnot that the guy was speaking to kind of happen, but a lot of the time with things, like if we get together, they end up turning - there's like a point, a flashpoint, where everything starts to go kind of chaotic and crazy and whatnot.

CONAN: Yeah, when does that collective joy turn into the mob mentality, I guess is the question.

SOLOMON: And maybe a little bit of -

CONAN: Yeah, let's get a response from Barbara Ehrenreich.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah. I think it really depends on whether you have a sign of some kind of cultural framework for what's going on, where it's understood that you're there to have a good time. There's a dark side to some of this.

Some of those carnivals in medieval Europe probably - though I have no evidence or mentions of this - led to attacks on the Jewish quarter in town. You know, that - there could be things like that. But we have so many other examples of truly peaceable, loving and inclusive concert festivities that I take heart from.

CONAN: Our guest is Barbara Ehrenreich. Her new book is “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.” If you'd like to join the conversation give us a call, 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail us: And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And here's an e-mail from Richard.

My most ecstatic collective moment came in Seattle 1999 on Labor Tuesday of the WTO protest. My labor affiliated group marched along with burly teamsters, bare-breasted lesbian avengers, costumed students and workers, and the quite wonderful anti-fascist marching band.

I have never been so transported beyond myself, so filled with hope, joy, and solidarity. We were all dancing in the streets. This kind of collective spontaneous joy also deserves mention.

And it certainly gets it in your book, Barbara.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yes. I actually mention the 1999 Seattle demonstrations. I'm fascinated by what I see as a certain kind of carnivalization of protest. In recent years - compared to the ‘60s where we, sort of, just marched and chanted - I've seen more costumes, more music, more dancing, and, you know, something very colorful and joyful about protests, especially in the anti-globalization tradition.

CONAN: And as the costuming and masking suggest, a lot of preparation goes into this.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Oh, yes. These are not just things of - it's a matter of spontaneous letting go. But just as in, you know, ancient carnival or medieval carnival, really planning it.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Here's an e-mail from Amanda.

I'm currently a senior philosophy student at Reed College. I know that Barbara Ehrenreich is an Alumna of Reed, and I wanted to ask if she was at all influenced by Renn Fayre while she was writing her book.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Renn Fayre? Renaissance Fair?

CONAN: I think it's a - well, I don't know. Maybe - it's spelled R-e-n-n F-a-y-r-e, but maybe it's Renaissance Fair. I don't know.

Ms. EHRENREICH: I have to admit, I don't know of it.

CONAN: All right. Well, let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is Angela. Angela, with us from Dalton, Georgia, where she's been very patient on the line.

ANGELA (Caller): Yes. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

ANGELA: I have noticed during large groupings that there seems to be - it creates its own energy force - its own energy field.

CONAN: Taking on - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think that's your whole point, isn't it Barbara?

Ms. EHRENREICH: Yeah, yeah. There is research on this. Social psychologists have studied this. They know there is a kind of excitement just from being with others. And that, I think, is what we build on when we, kind of, deliberately create collective joy by throwing in things like music and costuming and bright colors and good things to eat.

CONAN: Thanks, Angela.

ANGELA: Thank you.

CONAN: Yet clearly, these events that people are writing about: Burning Man, and these concerts, and the protests, and various other things - they do not play the central role in our lives that these kinds of events played in the lives of people in prehistoric or even early historic times that you write about. What have we lost?

Ms. EHRENREICH: We've lost a lot. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that so many callers have referenced their own participation in these kinds of things, which actually not that many people know about in our culture. You know, these are great but they're countercultural - a little bit, marginal.

What we've lost - when you take away an opportunity to experience this kind of joyous bonding with other humans, I argue, this has something to do with the fact that depression is such a big problem and has been for quite a few centuries in Western culture.

Not that, you know, that if we just all danced all the time we'd never have depression. But it's often been seen in other cultures as a cure for depression. As one caller - Elizabeth - said, when she's feeling down she puts on her Calypso music and dances around. We have taken away a very natural kind of cure, of feeling great together, and we're left feeling, kind of, isolated.

CONAN: It's interesting you also conclude Dionysus was the first rock star.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Oh, yes. Well, there are some accounts from ancient Greece that suggest that what triggered some of the forms of worship of Dionysus was the visit to a town or village by a nomadic musician - of a musician who'd go from town to town. Maybe he'd be a magician also. And that's what would draw the women out. And so I said, well, you know, this guy who then represented the god Dionysus, was also, you know, the first rock star.

CONAN: “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy” is the latest book by Barbara Ehrenreich. She joined us today from our bureau in New York. Thanks so much for your time.

Ms. EHRENREICH: Oh, my pleasure Neal.

CONAN: When we come back from a short break, The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg gives us his review of the new Apple iPhone and the question on the mind of every Mac addict: would you give up your iPod for the iPhone. Give us a call. Tell us if you'd buy the iPhone, what questions you have about it. 800-989-8255. This is NPR News.

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