by David Croteau
Temple University Press, 1994
Cloth: 978-1-56639-254-9 | Paper: 978-1-56639-255-6
Library of Congress Classification JK1764.C76 1995
Dewey Decimal Classification 323.0420973

Finalist for Transformational Politics Book Award, American Political Science Association, 1996

"In this useful introduction to the connection between social class and political participation in the modern United States, David Croteau explores the 'class divide' separating middle-class activism and working-class non-participation in left political and social movements."

--Labour History Review

"People don't believe they have a say anymore, so they've given up."

That's the cynical conclusion of one worker in this study of the relationships between working people and the middle-class left. This rare accessible book on class differences in American life examines the impact of class status on an individual's participation--or non-participation--in the political process.

Focusing on the relative absence of white working-class involvement in many contemporary U.S. liberal and left social movements, David Croteau goes straight to the source: members of the working class and activists in the environmental, peace, women's, and other social movements. Croteau rejects standard assumptions that apathy or simple conservatism explain working-class nonparticipation. Instead, he highlights the role of class-based resources and explores how varying cultural "tools" developed in different classes are more or less helpful in navigating and influencing the existing political environment. Commonly, he finds, the result is a middle-class sense of power and entitlement and a working-class sense of powerlessness and fatalism.

Contemplating the future of social movements, he explores how lack of diversity hurts the effectiveness of what have become isolated middle-class movements, and proposes solutions that would increase the future political participation of working people in social movements.