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The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Haymarket Series) Paperback – July 17, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Haymarket Series
  • Paperback: 195 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New Edition edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844671453
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844671458
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“At last an American labor historian realizes that white workers have a racial identity that matters as race matters to workers who are not white.”—Nell Irwin Painter, Princeton University

“A timely and important intervention in the current debates over ‘race’ and ethnicity.”—Catherine Hall, New Left Review

“Roediger’s exciting new book makes us understand what it means to see oneself as white in a new way. An extremely important and insightful book.”—Lawrence Glickman, The Nation

“The Celestine Prophecy of whiteness studies.”—SPLN

About the Author

David Roediger is Kendrick Babcock Chair of History at the University of Illinois. Among his books are Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day (with Philip S. Foner), How Race Survived US History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon, and The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. He is the editor of Fellow Worker: The Life of Fred Thompson, The North and Slavery and Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White as well as a new edition of Covington Hall’s Labor Struggles in the Deep South. His articles have appeared in New Left Review, Against the Current, Radical History Review, History Workshop Journal, The Progressive and Tennis.

Mike Davis is the author of several books including Planet of Slums, City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, and Magical Urbanism. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa’aloa, Hawaii.

Michael Sprinker was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His Imaginary Relations: Aesthetics and Ideology in the History of Historical Materialism and History and Ideology in Proust are also published by Verso. Together with Mike Davis, he founded Verso’s Haymarket Series and guided it until his death in 1999.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

110 of 122 people found the following review helpful By bradley on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Roediger examines the growth and social construction of racism as it was related to the working classes of the ninteenth century. His scholarship earned him the Organization of American Historians Merle Curti Prize for US Social History in 1991. This work is brief, but dense in analysis, argument and scholarly interpretations.
The book basically explores how white workers (with an emphasis on Irish Americans) sought after a "wage" for their color, by placing on Black Americans the mantle of "other", objectifying and stratifying blacks into an object of prejudice and discrimination.
After a lengthy discussion of the historiography of labor and race issues, Roediger writes eloquently of the cultural formation of words such as slave, servant, hired hand, freeman, white slave, master and boss. All of which, he argues, were used to diferentiate between blacks and white laborers. He is careful to point out that it was the workers themselves who created the terms as a means to divide the races and elevate whites on the hierarchy of social status. It is a convincing arguement. The text concludes with an enlightening discussion of "black face" and the social struggles of the Irish, whom many felt in the majority viewed as "white negroes."
This book is scholarly and a read that demands one's attention.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book tackles the difficult subject of race relations among the working class of America. The time frame for this book is generally fom 1800 through the Civil war, as America was turning from an agricultural society to an industrial society. Slavery was drawing to a close, immigration had increased, and the urban populations of American cities were growing. All of these elements combined to create an urban working class complete with racial tension. Within this context, David R. Roediger defines the attitudes of race and race relation in a manner that is unique to most histories of urban studies. He not only records the developments of a racial identity, but he also examines the reasons why the white community defined itself as well as how the white community defined other groups. This book will probably stir a lot of controversy, but it will also answer many questions. Any historian or urban studies major can benefit form this book, but beyond college level readers, anyone interested in racial identities and racial differences can also appriciate this book.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By rusty on December 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Let it be said from the outset that Roediger is an American Labor Historian, and although this is a book about race, it is also a book about the way class and race are so intertwined. I think it is somewhat amusing that so many people find Roediger racist against whites, I don't think he is: he is more interested in the way race and class became nearly unified concepts in the formation of the American Working Class during the nineteenth century. As Roediger points out, Working class became in many ways, white working class: which is no suprise considering that most works of labor history before the 1960s (and even most afterwards) concerned themselves only with white men. This of course leads to a minor fault in his work: gender is not fully considered (but at 180 pages, this is understandable). Dana Frank's "Purchasing Power" would be a good work to get a small glimpse of that peice of the puzzle.

Overall, a great work of historical scholarship that should be read by every serious historian.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lionel S. Taylor on October 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book looks at the very interesting question of why the American labor movement did not embrace the cause of Black emancipation and civil right. On the surface it would seem that the two wold have enough in common to share a common cause. Not so argues Roedinger. In fact he argues that the emerging industrial worker of the mid to late 19th century who was low skilled and often times a recent immigrant from Ireland or Germany had an even more powerful interest in distancing themselves from the degradation that was associated with Blacks and the jobs that they performed. While this wold seem counter intuitive, Roediger argues that many unskilled white workers gained a type of social legitimacy from separating themselves from non-white labor and gaining for themselves the status of being seen as White American workers. While the beginning of the book is a little dense as the author tries to tease out the changing meaning of different terms for labor and racial categories in the pre and post Civil War period, this only sets the stage for more concrete example in the second half when he examines the experiences of Irish immigrant laborers in the later chapters. This is and interesting book in that it examines race from the perspective of what it means to be White and the social implications of that. It reminds the reader that the social categorization of race is dependent on opposition and that this opposition is in no way a natural or concrete boundary but rather a a dynamic social construct that all Americans should be aware of.
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3 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Winston on November 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oh, please! I can understand why college professors assign this book. It is important to understand why historiography moves through phases. This is definitely one of the phases that has come and gone. As a result, this book serves only as an example of how NOT to write historical analysis.

Roediger's treatment of racial history is an overly simplistic portrayal of American societal evolution after emancipation. His reductionist approach to surveying racial angst is a name-dropping festival. This book left me feeling as though Roediger did little work to speak with his own voice. The profligate name-dropping (fifteen names in one paragraph alone) left me wondering if Roediger has an opinion of his own or, rather, prefers to hide behind the opinions of others. Of reductionist history –if any historical trend, act or agency does not fit inside his narrow Marxist interpretation then he either simply ignores it or grossly misinterprets information to match his politically predisposed conclusions.

Overall, this book seems to serve as a platform to advertise Roediger's trademark Marxist historical idiom. Marxist historiography is dead. This book demonstrates why this is so.

To any history professors reading this review: this book is best served to your classes in excerpted form. I encourage you not to anger your students with the bother and expense of buying this book, and then requiring them to read it. Could discord enhance your class discussion? Perhaps. However, if it were like the discussion in my graduate class, you would spend more time tearing this work apart than discussing its paltry merits. Of the merits: the introduction, only seven pages penned by Kathleen Cleaver, presented the lion's share of insightful information.
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