Our image of the Roman world is shaped by the writings of Roman statesmen and upper class intellectuals. Yet most of the material evidence we have from Roman times—art, architecture, and household artifacts from Pompeii and elsewhere—belonged to, and was made for, artisans, merchants, and professionals. Roman culture as we have seen it with our own eyes, Emanuel Mayer boldly argues, turns out to be distinctly middle class and requires a radically new framework of analysis.Starting in the first century bce, ancient communities, largely shaped by farmers living within city walls, were transformed into vibrant urban centers where wealth could be quickly acquired through commercial success. From 100 bce to 250 ce, the archaeological record details the growth of a cosmopolitan empire and a prosperous new class rising along with it. Not as keen as statesmen and intellectuals to show off their status and refinement, members of this new middle class found novel ways to create pleasure and meaning. In the décor of their houses and tombs, Mayer finds evidence that middle-class Romans took pride in their work and commemorated familial love and affection in ways that departed from the tastes and practices of social elites.
Often seen as a political sop to the racial fears of white voters, aggressive policing and draconian sentencing for illegal drug possession and related crimes have led to the imprisonment of millions of African Americans—far in excess of their representation in the population as a whole. Michael Javen Fortner shows in this eye-opening account that these punitive policies also enjoyed the support of many working-class and middle-class blacks, who were angry about decline and disorder in their communities. Black Silent Majority uncovers the role African Americans played in creating today’s system of mass incarceration.Current anti-drug policies are based on a set of controversial laws first adopted in New York in the early 1970s and championed by the state’s Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller. Fortner traces how many blacks in New York came to believe that the rehabilitation-focused liberal policies of the 1960s had failed. Faced with economic malaise and rising rates of addiction and crime, they blamed addicts and pushers. By 1973, the outcry from grassroots activists and civic leaders in Harlem calling for drastic measures presented Rockefeller with a welcome opportunity to crack down on crime and boost his political career. New York became the first state to mandate long prison sentences for selling or possessing narcotics.Black Silent Majority lays bare the tangled roots of a pernicious system. America’s drug policies, while in part a manifestation of the conservative movement, are also a product of black America’s confrontation with crime and chaos in its own neighborhoods.
The big economic story of our times is not the Great Recession. It is how China and India began to embrace neoliberal ideas of economics and attributed a sense of dignity and liberty to the bourgeoisie they had denied for so long. The result was an explosion in economic growth and proof that economic change depends less on foreign trade, investment, or material causes, and a whole lot more on ideas and what people believe.
Or so says Deirdre N. McCloskey in Bourgeois Dignity, a fiercely contrarian history that wages a similar argument about economics in the West. Here she turns her attention to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe to reconsider the birth of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. According to McCloskey, our modern world was not the product of new markets and innovations, but rather the result of shifting opinions about them. During this time, talk of private property, commerce, and even the bourgeoisie itself radically altered, becoming far more approving and flying in the face of prejudices several millennia old. The wealth of nations, then, didn’t grow so dramatically because of economic factors: it grew because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise finally became enthusiastic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.
An utterly fascinating sequel to her critically acclaimed book The Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity is a feast of intellectual riches from one of our most spirited and ambitious historians—a work that will forever change our understanding of how the power of persuasion shapes our economic lives.
Mark Jones examines the making of a new child’s world in Japan between 1890 and 1930 and focuses on the institutions, groups, and individuals that reshaped both the idea of childhood and the daily life of children. Family reformers, scientific child experts, magazine editors, well-educated mothers, and other prewar urban elites constructed a model of childhood—having one’s own room, devoting time to homework, reading children’s literature, playing with toys—that ultimately became the norm for young Japanese in subsequent decades.This book also places the story of modern childhood within a broader social context—the emergence of a middle class in early twentieth century Japan. The ideal of making the child into a “superior student” (yutosei) appealed to the family seeking upward mobility and to the nation-state that needed disciplined, educated workers able to further Japan’s capitalist and imperialist growth. This view of the middle class as a child-centered, educationally obsessed, socially aspiring stratum survived World War II and prospered into the years beyond.
Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula juts into Lake Superior, pointing from the western Upper Peninsula toward Canada. Native peoples mined copper there for at least five thousand years, but the industrial heyday of the “Copper Country” began in the late nineteenth century, as immigrants from Cornwall, Italy, Finland, and elsewhere came to work in mines largely run from faraway cities such as New York and Boston. In those cities, suburbs had developed to allow wealthier classes to escape the dirt and grime of the industrial center. In the Copper Country, however, the suburbs sprang up nearly adjacent to mines, mills, and coal docks.
Sarah Fayen Scarlett contrasts two types of neighborhoods that transformed Michigan’s mining frontier between 1875 and 1920: paternalistic company towns built for the workers and elite suburbs created by the region’s network of business leaders. Richly illustrated with drawings, maps, and photographs, Company Suburbs details the development of these understudied cultural landscapes that arose when elites began to build housing that was architecturally distinct from that of the multiethnic workers within the old company towns. They followed national trends and created social hierarchies in the process, but also, uniquely, incorporated pre-existing mining features and adapted company housing practices. This idiosyncratic form of suburbanization belies the assumption that suburbs and industry were independent developments.
Built environments evince interrelationships among landscapes, people, and power. Scarlett’s work offers new perspectives on emerging national attitudes linking domestic architecture with class and gender identity. Company Suburbs complements scholarship on both industrial communities and early suburban growth, increasing our understanding of the ways hierarchies associated with industrial capitalism have been built into the shared environments of urban areas as well as seemingly peripheral American towns.
When E. Franklin Frazier was elected the first black president of the American Sociological Association in 1948, he was established as the leading American scholar on the black family and was also recognized as a leading theorist on the dynamics of social change and race relations. By 1948 his lengthy list of publications included over fifty articles and four major books, including the acclaimed Negro Family in the United States. Frazier was known for his thorough scholarship and his mastery of skills in both history and sociology.
With the publication of Bourgeoisie Noire in 1955 (translated in 1957 as Black Bourgeoisie), Frazier apparently set out on a different track, one in which he employed his skills in a critical analysis of the black middle class. The book met with mixed reviews and harsh criticism from the black middle and professional class. Yet Frazier stood solidly by his argument that the black middle class was marked by conspicuous consumption, wish fulfillment, and a world of make-believe. While Frazier published four additional books after 1948, Black Bourgeoisie remained by far his most controversial.
Given his status in American sociology, there has been surprisingly little study of Frazier's work. In E. Franklin Frazier and Black Bourgeoisie, a group of distinguished scholars remedies that lack, focusing on his often-scorned Black Bourgeoisie.
This in-depth look at Frazier's controversial publication is relevant to the growing concerns about racism, problems in our cities, the limitations of affirmative action, and the promise of self-help.
In 1920s Middle America, the Ku Klux Klan gained popularity not by appealing to the fanatical fringes of society, but by attracting the interest of “average” citizens. During this period, the Klan recruited members through the same unexceptional channels as any other organization or club, becoming for many a respectable public presence, a vehicle for civic activism, or the source of varied social interaction. Its diverse membership included men and women of all ages, occupations, and socio-economic standings. Although surviving membership records of this clandestine organization have proved incredibly rare, Everyday Klansfolk uses newly available documents to reconstruct the life and social context of a single grassroots unit in Newaygo County, Michigan. A fascinating glimpse behind the mask of America’s most notorious secret order, this absorbing study sheds light on KKK activity and membership in Newaygo County, and in Michigan at large, during the brief and remarkable peak years of its mass popular appeal.
The world of wealth and patronage that we associate with sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Italy can make the Renaissance seem the exclusive domain of artists and aristocrats. Revealing a Renaissance beyond Michelangelo and the Medici, Sarah Gwyneth Ross recovers the experiences of everyday men and women who were inspired to pursue literature and learning.Ross draws on a trove of original unpublished sources—wills, diaries, household inventories, account books, and other miscellany—to reconstruct the lives of over one hundred artisans, merchants, and others on the middle rung of Venetian society who embraced the ennobling virtues of a humanistic education. These men and women sought out the latest knowledge, amassed personal libraries, and passed both their books and their hard-earned wisdom on to their families and heirs.Physicians were often the most avid—and the most anxious—of professionals seeking cultural legitimacy. Ross examines the lives of three doctors: Nicolò Massa (1485–1569), Francesco Longo (1506–1576), and Alberto Rini (d. 1599). Though they had received university training, these self-made men of letters were not patricians but members of a social group that still yearned for credibility. Unlike priests or lawyers, physicians had not yet rid themselves of the taint of artisanal labor, and they were thus indicative of a middle class that sought to earn the respect of their peers and betters, protect and advance their families, and secure honorable remembrance after death.
Despite their importance during the French Revolution, the Paris middle classes are little known. This book focuses on the family organization and the political role of the Paris commercial middle classes, using as a case study the Faubourg St. Marcel and particularly the parish of St. Médard.David Garrioch argues that in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the commercial middle classes were steadfastly local in their family ties and outlook. He shows, too, that they took independent political action in defense of their local position. This gradually changed during the eighteenth century, and the Revolution greatly accelerated the process of integration, at the same time broadening the composition of what may now be termed the Parisian bourgeoisie.Central to Garrioch's argument is the idea that family, politics, and power are intimately connected. He shows the centrality of kinship to local politics in the first half of the eighteenth century, and the way new family structures were related to changes in the nature of politics even before the Revolution. Among the many important issues considered are birth control, the role of women, the importance of lineage, the spatial limits of middle-class lives, and the language and secularization of politics.
To many observers, the 1981 election of Henry Cisneros as mayor of San Antonio, Texas, represented the culminating victory in the Chicano community's decades-long struggle for inclusion in the city's political life. Yet, nearly twenty years later, inclusion is still largely an illusion for many working-class and poor Chicanas and Chicanos, since business interests continue to set the city's political and economic priorities.
In this book, Rodolfo Rosales offers the first in-depth history of the Chicano community's struggle for inclusion in the political life of San Antonio during the years 1951 to 1991, drawn from interviews with key participants as well as archival research. He focuses on the political and organizational activities of the Chicano middle class in the context of post-World War II municipal reform and how it led ultimately to independent political representation for the Chicano community. Of special interest is his extended discussion of the role of Chicana middle-class women as they gained greater political visibility in the 1980s.
Like many gentlemen of his time, Charles Darwin married his first cousin. In fact, marriages between close relatives were commonplace in nineteenth-century England, and Adam Kuper argues that they played a crucial role in the rise of the bourgeoisie.Incest and Influence shows us just how the political networks of the eighteenth-century aristocracy were succeeded by hundreds of in-married bourgeois clans—in finance and industry, in local and national politics, in the church, and in intellectual life. In a richly detailed narrative, Kuper deploys his expertise as an anthropologist to analyze kin marriages among the Darwins and Wedgwoods, in Quaker and Jewish banking families, and in the Clapham Sect and their descendants over four generations, ending with a revealing account of the Bloomsbury Group, the most eccentric product of English bourgeois endogamy.These marriage strategies were the staple of novels, and contemporaries were obsessed with them. But there were concerns. Ideas about incest were in flux as theological doctrines were challenged. For forty years Victorian parliaments debated whether a man could marry his deceased wife’s sister. Cousin marriage troubled scientists, including Charles Darwin and his cousin Francis Galton, provoking revolutionary ideas about breeding and heredity.This groundbreaking study brings out the connection between private lives, public fortunes, and the history of imperial Britain.
Who, exactly, were the French bourgeoisie? Unlike the Anglo-Americans, who widely embraced middle-class ideals and values, the French--even the most affluent and conservative--have always rejected and maligned bourgeois values and identity.In this new approach to the old question of the bourgeoisie, Sarah Maza focuses on the crucial period before, during, and after the French Revolution, and offers a provocative answer: the French bourgeoisie has never existed. Despite the large numbers of respectable middling town-dwellers, no group identified themselves as bourgeois. Drawing on political and economic theory and history, personal and polemical writings, and works of fiction, Maza argues that the bourgeoisie was never the social norm. In fact, it functioned as a critical counter-norm, an imagined and threatening embodiment of materialism, self-interest, commercialism, and mass culture, which defined all that the French rejected.A challenge to conventional wisdom about modern French history, this book poses broader questions about the role of anti-bourgeois sentiment in French culture, by suggesting parallels between the figures of the bourgeois, the Jew, and the American in the French social imaginary. It is a brilliant and timely foray into our beliefs and fantasies about the social world and our definition of a social class.
Hornstein draws on trade journals, government documents on housing policy, material from the archives of the National Association of Realtors and local real estate boards, demographic data, and fictional accounts of real estate agents. He chronicles the early efforts of real estate brokers to establish their profession by creating local and national boards, business practices, ethical codes, and educational programs and by working to influence laws from local zoning ordinances to national housing policy. A rich and original work of American history, A Nation of Realtors® illuminates class, gender, and business through a look at the development of a profession and its enormously successful effort to make the owner-occupied, single-family home a key element of twentieth-century American identity.
Pakistan’s presence in the outside world is dominated by images of religious extremism and violence. These images—and the narratives that interpret them—inform events in the international realm, but they also twist back around to shape local class politics. In The New Pakistani Middle Class, Ammara Maqsood focuses on life in contemporary Lahore, where she unravels these narratives to show how central they are for understanding competition and the quest for identity among middle-class groups.Lahore’s traditional middle class has asserted its position in the socioeconomic hierarchy by wielding significant social capital and dominating the politics and economics of urban life. For this traditional middle class, a Muslim identity is about being modern, global, and on the same footing as the West. Recently, however, a more visibly religious, upwardly mobile social group has struggled to distinguish itself against this backdrop of conventional middle-class modernity, by embracing Islamic culture and values. The religious sensibilities of this new middle-class group are often portrayed as Saudi-inspired and Wahhabi.Through a focus on religious study gatherings and also on consumption in middle-class circles—ranging from the choice of religious music and home décor to debit cards and the cut of a woman’s burkha—The New Pakistani Middle Class untangles current trends in piety that both aspire toward, and contest, prevailing ideas of modernity. Maqsood probes how the politics of modernity meets the practices of piety in the struggle among different middle-class groups for social recognition and legitimacy.
Middle- and upper-middle-class students continue to outpace those from less privileged backgrounds. Most attempts to redress this inequality focus on the issue of access to financial resources, but as Producing Success makes clear, the problem goes beyond mere economics. In this eye-opening study, Peter Demerath examines a typical suburban American high school to explain how some students get ahead.
Demerath undertook four years of research at a Midwestern high school to examine the mercilessly competitive culture that drives students to advance. Producing Success reveals the many ways the community’s ideology of achievement plays out: students hone their work ethics and employ various strategies to succeed, from negotiating with teachers to cheating; parents relentlessly push their children while manipulating school policies to help them get ahead; and administrators aid high performers in myriad ways, even naming over forty students “valedictorians.” Yet, as Demerath shows, this unswerving commitment to individual advancement takes its toll, leading to student stress and fatigue, incivility and vandalism, and the alienation of the less successful. Insightful and candid, Producing Success is an often troubling account of the educationally and morally questionable results of the American culture of success.
A person who reads a book for self-improvement rather than aesthetic pleasure is “reading up.” Reading Up is Amy Blair's engaging study of popular literary critics who promoted reading generally and specific books as vehicles for acquiring cultural competence and economic mobility. Combining methodologies from the history of the book and the history of reading, to mass-cultural studies, reader-response criticism, reception studies, and formalist literary analysis, Blair shows how such critics influenced the choices of striving readers and popularized some elite writers.
Framed by an analysis of Hamilton Wright Mabie's role promoting the concept of “reading up” during his ten-year stint as the cultivator of literary taste for the highly popular Ladies' Home Journal, Reading Up reveals how readers flocked to literary works that they would be expected to dislike. Blair shows that while readers could be led to certain books by a trusted adviser, they frequently followed their own path in interpreting them in unexpected ways.
Do Americans, in all their cultural diversity, share any fundamental consensus? Does such a consensus, or anything else, make America exceptional in the modern world?
Since 1960 most historians have answered no--except perhaps for the current nostalgia for the Eisenhower years (the "Ozzie and Harriet" years of popular recollection) of middle-class American prosperity.
In Republic of the Dispossessed social historian Rowland Berthoff maintains not only that there was--and still is--a middle-class consensus and that America is exceptional in it but that it goes back some five hundred years. The consensus stems from all those European peasants and artisans who, from 1600 to 1950, fled dispossession in the Old World. They brought with them basic social values that acted as a template for middle-class American values. To consider modern American society as exceptional--that is, as distinctive and different from any contemporary European pattern of thought--is therefore, in Berthoff's theory, not at all the "illogical absurdity" that current conventional wisdom makes it.
The Berthoff thesis, as he develops it in these ten essays from throughout the course of his career, is well worth a second look by those within and beyond the field of social history. It suggests that the ideal--both peasant and classical republican-- of maintaining a balance between personal liberty and communal equality has long inspired American reaction to the drastic modern changes of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration.
Observing that most Americans still see themselves as independent, basically equal, middle-class citizens, Berthoff explains the current apprehension among Americans that at the end of the twentieth century they are once again being dispossessed-- thus, the current emphasis on "traditional values." Because that problem is the same that worried their European ancestors as much as five hundred years ago, Berthoff argues, the time has come to face the question head-on.
France in the mid-nineteenth century was shaken by a surge of civic activism, the "resurrection of civil society." But unlike similar developments throughout Europe, this civic mobilization culminated in the establishment of democratic institutions. How, Philip Nord asks, did France effect a successful transition from Louis-Napoleon's authoritarian Second Empire to a functioning republic based on universal suffrage and governed by middle-class parliamentarians? How did French civic activism take this democratic turn?Nord provides the answers in a multidimensional narrative that encompasses not only history and politics but also religion, philosophy, art, literature, and gender. He traces the advance of democratic sentiment and the consolidation of political dissent at its strategic institutional sites: the lodges of Freemasonry, the University, the Paris Chamber of Commerce, the Protestant and Jewish consistories, the Paris bar, and the arts. It was the particular character and unfolding of these struggles, Nord demonstrates, that made an awakening middle class receptive to democratic politics. The new republican elite was armed with a specific vision that rallied rural France--a vision of solidarity and civic-mindedness, of moral improvement, and of a socioeconomic order anchored in family enterprise.Nord's trenchant analysis explains how and why the Third Republic (1870-1940) endured longer than any other regime since the 1789 revolution. The convergence of republican currents at midcentury bequeathed to the French nation a mature civil society, a political elite highly trained in the arts of democratic politics, and an agenda that encompassed not only constitutional reform but also a reformation of private life and public culture.
In the aftermath of national unification in the 1860s, the Italian army was tasked with molding generations of men from warring regions and different social strata into obedient citizens of a centralized state. Integrating large numbers of the educated middle classes into the young kingdom’s armed forces proved decisive in establishing the army as the “main school” and backbone for mass nationalization. Lorenzo Benadusi examines the intersection of Italian military and civil society over the last century as they coalesced in the figure of the gentleman-officer—an idealized image of an altruistic, charming, and competent ruling class that could influence the choices, values, and behavior of the “new Italians.”
Respectability and Violence traces the relationship between civic virtues and military values from the post-Risorgimento period through the end of World War I, when the trauma of trench warfare made it necessary to again redefine ideas of chivalry and manliness and to accept violence as a necessary tool in defense of society and state. The language of conflict and attitudes about war forged in these decades—characterized by patriotism, heroism, and sacrifice—shaped the cultured bourgeoise into loyalists who ushered in Italy’s transition to a powerful Fascist political system. This unique study of the officer is crucial for understanding the military, social, and political history of Italy.
Cohen delves into the rupture that has occurred between the middle class, the individual, and the nation in Morocco and elsewhere around the world. Combining institutional economic analysis with cultural theory and ethnographic observation including interviews with seventy young adults in Casablanca and Rabat, she reveals how young, urban, educated Moroccans conceive of their material, social, and political conditions. She finds that, for the most part, they perceive improvement in their economic and social welfare apart from the types of civic participation commonly connected with nationalism and national identity. In answering classic sociological questions about how the evolution of capitalism influences identity, Cohen sheds new light on the measurable social and economic consequences of globalization and on its less tangible effects on individuals’ perception of their place in society and prospects in life.
Listen to a short interview with Philip T. HoffmanHost: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & CraneFinancial disasters often have long-range institutional consequences. When financial institutions--banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, stock exchanges--collapse, new ones take their place, and these changes shape markets for decades or even generations. Surviving Large Losses explains why such financial crises occur, why their effects last so long, and what political and economic conditions can help countries both rich and poor survive--and even prosper--in the aftermath.Looking at past and more recent financial disasters through the lens of political economy, the authors identify three factors critical to the development of financial institutions: the level of government debt, the size of the middle class, and the quality of information that is available to participants in financial transactions. They seek to find out when these factors promote financial development and mitigate the effects of financial crises and when they exacerbate them.Although there is no panacea for crises--no one set of institutions that will resolve them--it is possible, the authors argue, to strengthen existing financial institutions, to encourage economic growth, and to limit the harm that future catastrophes can do.
In twentieth-century Britain the literary landscape underwent a fundamental change. Aspiring authors--traditionally drawn from privileged social backgrounds--now included factory workers writing amid chaotic home lives, and married women joining writers' clubs in search of creative outlets. In this brilliantly conceived book, Christopher Hilliard reveals the extraordinary history of "ordinary" voices.Writing as an organized pursuit emerged in the 1920s, complete with clubs, magazines, guidebooks, and correspondence schools. The magazine The Writer helped coordinate a network of "writers' circles" throughout Britain that offered prospective authors--especially women--outside the educated London elite a forum in which to discuss writing. The legacy of Wordsworth and other English Romantics encouraged the belief that would-be authors should write about what they knew personally--that art flowed from genuine experience and technique was of secondary importance. The 1930s saw a boom in the publication of so-called proletarian writing, working-class men writing "in my own language about my own people," as Birmingham writer Leslie Halward put it. During World War II, soldiers turned to poetry to cope with the trauma of war, and the popular magazine Seven promoted the idea that anyone, regardless of social background, could be a creative writer. Self-expression became a democratic right.In capturing the creative lives of ordinary people--would-be fiction-writers and poets who until now have left scarcely a mark on written history--Hilliard sensitively reconstructs the literary culture of a democratic age.
For fifty years, William Allen White, first as a reporter and later as the long-time editor of the Emporia Gazette, wrote of his small town and its Mid-American values. By tailoring his writing to the emerging urban middle class of the early twentieth century, he won his “gospel of Emporia” a nationwide audience and left a lasting impact on he way America defines itself.
Investigating White’s life and his extensive writings, Edward Gale Agran explores the dynamic thought of one of America’s best-read and most-respected social commentators. Agran shows clearly how White honed his style and transformed the myth of conquering the western frontier into what became the twentieth-century ideal of community building.
Once a confidante of and advisor to Theodore Roosevelt, White addressed, and reflected in his work, all the great social and political oscillations of his time—urbanization and industrialism, populism, and progressivism, isolationism internationalism, Prohibition, and New Deal reform. Again and again, he asked the question “What’s the matter?” about his times and townspeople, then found the middle ground. With great care and discernment, Agran gathers the man strains of White’s messages, demonstrating one writer’s pivotal contribution to our idea of what it means to be an American.
An essential American dream—equal access to higher education—was becoming a reality with the GI Bill and civil rights movements after World War II. But this vital American promise has been broken. Christopher Newfield argues that the financial and political crises of public universities are not the result of economic downturns or of ultimately valuable restructuring, but of a conservative campaign to end public education’s democratizing influence on American society. Unmaking the Public University is the story of how conservatives have maligned and restructured public universities, deceiving the public to serve their own ends. It is a deep and revealing analysis that is long overdue.Newfield carefully describes how this campaign operated, using extensive research into public university archives. He launches the story with the expansive vision of an equitable and creative America that emerged from the post-war boom in college access, and traces the gradual emergence of the anti-egalitarian “corporate university,” practices that ranged from racial policies to research budgeting. Newfield shows that the culture wars have actually been an economic war that a conservative coalition in business, government, and academia have waged on that economically necessary but often independent group, the college-educated middle class. Newfield’s research exposes the crucial fact that the culture wars have functioned as a kind of neutron bomb, one that pulverizes the social and culture claims of college grads while leaving their technical expertise untouched. Unmaking the Public University incisively sets the record straight, describing a forty-year economic war waged on the college-educated public, and awakening us to a vision of social development shared by scientists and humanists alike.
“Important and lucidly written…The American Revolution involved not simply the wisdom of a few great men but the passions, fears, and religiosity of ordinary people.”—Gordon S. WoodIn this boldly innovative work, T. H. Breen spotlights a crucial missing piece in the stories we tell about the American Revolution. From New Hampshire to Georgia, it was ordinary people who became the face of resistance. Without them the Revolution would have failed. They sustained the commitment to independence when victory seemed in doubt and chose law over vengeance when their communities teetered on the brink of anarchy.The Will of the People offers a vivid account of how, across the thirteen colonies, men and women negotiated the revolutionary experience, accepting huge personal sacrifice, setting up daring experiments in self-government, and going to extraordinary lengths to preserve the rule of law. After the war they avoided the violence and extremism that have compromised so many other revolutions since. A masterful storyteller, Breen recovers the forgotten history of our nation’s true founders.“The American Revolution was made not just on the battlefields or in the minds of intellectuals, Breen argues in this elegant and persuasive work. Communities of ordinary men and women—farmers, workers, and artisans who kept the revolutionary faith until victory was achieved—were essential to the effort.”—Annette Gordon-Reed“Breen traces the many ways in which exercising authority made local committees pragmatic…acting as a brake on the kind of violent excess into which revolutions so easily devolve.”—Wall Street Journal
The ability to achieve economic security through hard work is a central tenet of the American Dream, but significant shifts in today’s economy have fractured this connection. While economic insecurity has always been a reality for some Americans, Black Americans have historically long experienced worse economic outcomes than Whites. In Work in Black and White, sociologists Enobong Hannah Branch and Caroline Hanley draw on interviews with 80 middle-aged Black and White Americans to explore how their attitudes and perceptions of success are influenced by the stories American culture has told about the American Dream – and about who should have access to it and who should not.
Branch and Hanley find that Black and White workers draw on racially distinct histories to make sense of today’s rising economic insecurity. White Americans have grown increasingly pessimistic and feel that the American Dream is now out of reach, mourning the loss of a sense of economic security which they took for granted. But Black Americans tend to negotiate their present insecurity with more optimism, since they cannot mourn something they never had. All educated workers bemoaned the fact that their credentials no longer guarantee job security, but Black workers lamented the reality that even with an education, racial inequality continues to block access to good jobs for many.
The authors interject a provocative observation into the ongoing debate over opportunity, security, and the American Dream: Among policymakers and the public alike, Americans talk too much about education. The ways people navigate insecurity, inequality, and uncertainty rests on more than educational attainment. The authors call for a public policy that ensures dignity in working conditions and pay while accounting for the legacies of historical inequality.
Americans want the game of life to be fair. While the survey respondents expressed common ground on the ideal of meritocracy, opinions about to achieve economic security for all diverge along racial lines, with the recognition – or not – of differences in current and past access to opportunity in America.
Work in Black and White is a call to action for meaningful policies to make the premise of the American Dream a reality.
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