Today’s highly unequal US hardly qualifies as sustaining the middle class. The idea of the US as a middle class place required nurturing. Those doing that ideological work—from the business press, to pollsters, to intellectuals celebrating the results of free enterprise—gained little traction until the Depression and Cold War expanded the middle class brand.
Much later, the book’s sections on liberal strategist Stanley Greenberg detail, “saving the middle class” entered presidential politics. Both parties soon defined the middle class to include over 90% of the population, precluding intelligent attention to the poor and the very rich. Resurrecting radical historical critiques of the middle class, Roediger argues that middle class identities have so long been shaped by debt, anxiety about falling, and having to sell one’s personality at work that misery defines a middle class existence as much as fulfillment.
"[A] useful contribution to our understanding of how for nearly three decades saving the middle-class has preoccupied national political debate, but produced very little in the way of uplift. As The Sinking Middle Class makes painfully clear, the middle layers of the structure of wealth and income have fared abysmally." —California Review of Books
“As the nation burns and the future appears uncertain, David Roediger delivers another incisive, timely, clear-eyed analysis of class and race in America. His point is clear: another world won’t be built by pollsters or slick election strategies aimed at saving the middle class. We have to grow a movement. ” —Robin D. G. Kelley
"With precision honed through a lifetime of radical analysis and a touch of biting humor, David Roediger pulls apart the myth of the middle class and shows us its rotten center. He takes aim at lazy assumptions treasured by both liberals and the left, showing us the ways the thing that passes for class analysis in American discourse is actually nothing of the sort. The Sinking Middle Class is an antidote to smarmy campaign-trail paeans to the middle and sloppy treatises on the newly discovered "white working class," a reminder that true class struggle is built through the difficult and absolutely necessary work of building solidarity where it is uncomfortable." —Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble and Work Won't Love You Back
“A consistently pathbreaking historian.” —Monthly Review
“No contemporary intellectual has better illuminated the interwoven social histories and conceptual dimensions of race and class domination.” —Nikhil Singh
“Brilliant and insightful... Explores the ways in which appeals to save the middle class in electoral politics harm the very constituencies they purport to help.” —George Lipsitz
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Join David Roediger and Nan Enstad as they challenge the “save the middle class” rhetoric that dominates our political imagination.