White Working Class

White Working Class

Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America

Book - 2017
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"Around the world, populist movements are gaining traction among the white working class. Meanwhile, the professional elite--journalists, managers, and establishment politicians--is on the outside looking in, and left to argue over the reasons why. In White Working Class, Joan C. Williams, described as "something approaching rock star status" in her field by the New York Times, explains why so much of the elite's analysis of the white working class is misguided, rooted in assumptions by what she has controversially coined "class cluelessness." Williams explains how most analysts, and the corresponding media coverage, have conflated "working class" with "poor." All too often, white working class motivations have been dismissed as simply racism or xenophobia. Williams explains how the term "working class" has been misapplied--it is, in fact, the elusive, purportedly disappearing middle class. This demographic often resents both the poor and the professionals. They don't, however, tend to resent the truly rich, nor are they particularly bothered by income inequality. Their dream is not to join the upper middle class, with its different culture, but to stay true to their own values in their own communities--just with more money. White Working Class is a blunt, bracing narrative that sketches a nuanced portrait of millions of people throughout the world who have proven to be a potent political force. For anyone stunned by the rise in populist, nationalist movements, wondering why so many would seemingly vote against their own economic interests or simply feeling like a stranger in their own country, White Working Class will be a convincing primer on how to connect with a crucial set of workers--and voters"--book jacket.
Publisher: Boston, Massachusetts : Harvard Business Review Press, [2017]
ISBN: 9781633693784
1633693783
Characteristics: x, 180 pages ; 22 cm

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d
Datschie
Dec 26, 2018

This relatively slim, yet dense volume is a first attempt to explain why many white working class Americans voted for Trump. I stress “ first attempt” as it was written shortly after his election. It requires careful reading, whether agreeing with the author or not, in particular her definition of “working class” and “elite”, both of which I find somewhat problematic. I see this intelligent book as a basis for further discussion.

s
StarGladiator
Dec 06, 2018

Insipid. Almost everything about this book and author is insipid. The author's attempt at absolute classifications and qualifications is insipid, simpleton and usually just wrong!
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Rated I for Insipid. I for insipid. I for insipid.
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This book is rife with invalid, arbitrary distinctions where none exist!
On p. 29, // . . . Studies show that between 51% and 70% of professionals get jobs through personal contacts . . . \\ Yup, and that's called anti-meritocracy, because we live in an anti-meritocratic society.
Calling a sociopathology structure of zero integrity, zero loyalty, zero ethics //self-actualization\\ is just so much self-serving shyster-speak!
I take strong exception to the author's constant differentiation of her so-called //progressive elite\\ and mainstream conservatives [sorry, Williams, but Ted Olson and David Boies are far too similar in most respects: unacceptable example]. Her so-called progressive elites are neoliberals - - neocons claiming to be something else! Olson's pro bono work on marriage equality got the clueless PuppetMedia gay types - - like Seattle's Dan Savage [who supported the Bush invasion of Iraq after 9/11] - - gushing in print about the shyster firm, Gibson Dunn, which makes big bucks defending corporate-hired assassins of labor organizers; Gibson Dunn was involved in pro-Citizens United litigation and earlier, pro-Bush v. Gore litigation.
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A Californian study of voluntary water usage, back in the 1980s, thoroughly refutes this type of shoddy scholarship: during one of their droughts, they asked everyone in a multi-county area to voluntarily cut back on water usage, then they monitored the results: in the poorest areas, there was no discernible change - - in the working class/middle class areas, there was a dramatic DECREASE noted - - and in the richest areas, there was a dramatic INCREASE noted as many of the wealthy suddenly began hoarding large amounts of water in newly purchased containers and tanks.
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During the global economic meltdown, when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, they owed $600 billion in debt, $400 billion of which was supposedly covered by those insurance swindle instruments known as Credit Default Swaps. Of course, the sellers of those swaps or insurance policies: AIG, PIMCO and Citadel, couldn't cover even a fracture of the amount owed - - they'd sold fraudulent financial instruments with zero financial backing!
Working class people understand this to be fraud and realize that's how the rich get rich - - or richer. Williams' Professional Managerial Elite [PME] would describe this as simply poor risk management - - and therein lies the never-to-be resolved difference! ! !
Williams consistently insists on calling a dog's tail its fifth leg - - sorry, but most dogs only have four legs!
[She did make several good points on pp. 49, 73 and 80, but then made an invalid point on p. 84, which is completely and unknowingly contradicted by a valid point on p. 89!]
And no to Williams, global jobs offshoring and foreign visa worker insourcing has played a major role; automation-spurred productivity increases only occurred relatively recently!
Memo to author Williams: Trump and Clinton are both high-level crooks, deal with it!!!!!

m
mbkamracz
Oct 18, 2018

Shankar Vedantam profiled the author and book in Hidden Brain - https://www.npr.org/2018/10/15/657547685/voting-with-a-middle-finger-two-views-on-the-white-working-class

g
GeneralAmerica
Mar 10, 2018

Most minorities in the United States are working middle class citizens. I guess they are not important enough to write about. Just because somebody has a college degree does not make them "elite". Elite persons would be the people in Trump's cabinet and his son in-law. Why would a working class citizen think that Trump can relate to them in any way? Did they like the fact that he has actually destroyed multiple small businesses by not paying them for their products/services? If you remember Hillary came from a middle class family and worked as a lawyer representing woman and children for many years. I am not sure why people fell for obvious propaganda and attacks against Hillary. I think people need to stay away from cable news and books like this which are obviously written just to push their agenda.

h
hoerle
Mar 08, 2018

This book uses a few statistics and anecdotal comments to attempt to convince the reader that professional managerial elitism and arrogance and cluelessness caused working class to direct their resentment toward elites and the poor and therefore elect Trump, who is above it all because he is rich. It's an absurd premise. The author lost all credibility in Chapter 4 when she wrote:

"The professional class seeks social honor by embracing the edgy; the white working class seeks honor by embracing the traditional. The focus on character, morality, and family values is a key expression of class disadvantage; we all choose baskets we can fill. This attachment to tradition is part of what the white working class shared for so long with Burkean conservatives."

Wow just wow. The white working class voted overwhelmingly for the least family values individual running for president in 2016 and voted for Trump because they resented Obama's and Hillary's perceived elitism. Which means, logically, 1) that "elites" can't have strong family values or 2) working class doesn't vote according to their family values because they don't really value traditional family values or they don't have them. The author tries to convince us #1 is the cause of Trump's win when the actual cause is #2.

s
stewstealth
Nov 22, 2017

A brief though well annotated look at the reasons why many of the white working class chose to vote for Trump. The author critiques those of the "left" who demonize the white working class without attempting to understand their thoughts and motivations. This book draws on some others recently published such as Hillbilly Elegy. Though the issues are likely more complex then the author offers it is a worthwhile read on the subject.

i
IanS_Librarian
Aug 04, 2017

This is a really important book. As many people, it took me a while to cope with the results of the 2016 election. To help, I am getting more involving in my local party and supporting candidates I believe in at a municipal level this year. This book explains a lot about why the election broke for Trump. It made me examine my own privileged place in the world and how I am out of touch with my blue collar roots.

Williams does a great job of explaining why things between classes are complicated. Being a stay at home mom is a status upgrade for a working class mom because it allows he more quality time with her children and spouse. A professional elite may look down about this choice because they don't understand it.

Basically, there is a lot about the white working class that professional elites don't understand or don't try to understand but this book helps a lot. I recommend this book for any Democrats out there that want to plan for a future where they start winning again.

My only disappointment with this book is that while we hear plenty about Trump, I don't recall reading anything about the other candidate that connected with the white working class, Bernie Sanders. The book made me wonder what would have happened if Sanders would have been the nominee.

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