Examining the impact of class status on political participation
Politics and the Class Divide
Working People and the Middle Class Left
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Finalist for Transformational Politics Book Award, American Political Science Association, 1996
"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 participationor non-participationin 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.
Part I: Democracy, Social Movements, and Class
Part II: Class, Culture, and Political Participation
Appendix A: Class: Structure and Collective Action
David Croteau, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, is co-author of By Invitation Only: How the Media Limits Political Debate.
In the series
Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.
Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni, includes books on workplace issues like worker participation, quality of work life, shorter hours, technological change, and productivity, as well as union and community organizing and ethnographies of particular occupations.