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The Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret (ILR Press Book) Paperback – January 11, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: ILR Press Book
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press; 1 edition (January 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487279
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,621,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Dow is high, unemployment is low, so what could be wrong? In this pungent critique of class and economics in the United StatesApart economic theory, part political lecture and part reportage of working-class lifeAZweig offers an insightful, radical analysis that will make many readers rethink commonly held but unexamined beliefs. Arguing that class is less about annual income than "about the power that some people have over the lives of others, and the powerlessness most people experience as a result," Zweig reassesses class in terms of who has power in the workplace and concludes that the majority of America's employed are working class. Because the U.S.'s economic structure, job organization and social arrangements all denigrate blue-collar mannerisms, identity and culture, most people (even those with very low incomes) are encouraged to view themselves as middle class. Yet those among the true middle-class in income and workplace power are only 36% of the work forceAless than half of the working class. According to Zweig, the dream of a classless (or mostly middle-class) America has simply become a myth that's supported "when we focus on the one who makes it and not the many who do not." Zweig supports his arguments with statistics, facts and personal stories and argues with a forcefulness and conviction backed up by a deeply moral sense of the dignity that is due to each person in their work and workplace.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Today, the majority of working Americans labor longer hours and have less earning power and fewer job protections than they did 25 years ago. Zweig (economics, SUNY at Stony Brook) argues that "the long decline of working-class living standards coincides with the gradual and now almost total disappearance of the working class as a subject of discussion." The author rejects the comforting notion that most Americans earn middle incomes and are middle class. Instead, he defines the working-class majority as the 60 percent of working people who have little power over their working conditions and who do not boss others. Even in post-Cold War America, this working class has very different economic interests from capitalists and the professional class. Zweig believes that workers must understand this idea in order to unite across race and gender divisions to define and solve their economic plight. This book is convincingly argued, well documented with economic statistics and personal interviews, and upbeat in its conclusion. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Duncan Stewart, State Historical Society of Iowa Lib., Iowa City
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a 5-star read for anyone interested in the interrelationships between class and political power in the U.S. today. Zweig has the ability (unlike most professional economists) to penetrate mounds of statistical data and present their key elements to the reader in clear, jargon-free prose. He is particularly effective at showing how terms like "working class", "middle class" and "underclass" have often been distorted, sometimes by those with a vested interest in making us misunderstand the relationship between our working lives and our class status.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on November 4, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Class-talk is mostly nonexistent in the U.S. We as a rule hear that most of us are in a vast middle class and share similar experiences, expectations, and opportunities. The author of this book punctures that notion and counters with the reality that capitalistic society is very much defined by distinct classes: an elite and small capitalistic class, a large working class, and a middle class of professionals, entrepreneurs, and managers that reside between the other two. His key point is that it is not income that defines the classes: it is the exercise of power. An elite capitalistic class dominates and controls our society culturally, politically, and most basically in workplaces and corporations. It is that exercise of power that sets capitalists apart. The working class is essentially powerless by comparison with the author's middle class exercising varying degrees of power depending on actual position held.
The author identifies several approaches that obscure the existence of classes. One is that we gain our identity primarily as consumers. As consumers we are told we are "sovereign," that is, empowered. Of course, the systematic manipulation by advertisers is an agenda of disempowerment of consumers adding to the domination already occurring in workplaces. Another myth is that people freely change positions (upward mobility) within a vast middle class. In other words, class does not largely determine life's chances and successes even though there is substantial evidence to the contrary. To further deny the reality of classes in American, talk of class is discredited by elites as foreign to America, or at least as an ideology of the past.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written book about the economic system of the United States. The author examines the U.S. class structure and explains why ordinary people should care about it. The obvious audience for this book will be working class activists, union members, and others interested in challenging big-business domination. Zwieg's book would also be a good read for students of economics, political science, or sociology. "The Working Class Majority" deserves your attention.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rachel L. Steen on October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
"The Working Class Majority" came out at a time when formidable economic forces, such as corporate mergers, globalization, recessions, and tax-cuts for the wealthy, had been punishing the American working class with unprecedented impunity, a phenomenon that has forced politicians, media, and learning institutions to intensify their efforts to deflect people's attention from whatever gets them to talk about social classes. Such a concept many thought died with the Berlin Wall and the anachronism of the Soviet system, not to mention the American labor's hey-day before and during the Depression, but Zweig contends that whether it has been in the past or the present, knowledge of class relations has proved paramount to understand how society really functions.

In his class relations study, Zweig found that the United States is neither a 'class-less' country, as the most enthusiasts picture it, nor is it predominantly middle-class, with few prominences as Bill Gates and Ross Perot at the top and few lazy, welfare-supported people, sometimes called the 'underclass,' at the bottom. Instead, the majority of Americans are in the working class, which Zweig estimates makes up 62 percent of the U.S. workforce.

By giving an alternative to the conventional definition of classes, Zweig's thesis mantains that is not solely income and living standards what determines the social position of people in society but rather to what extent they participate (power) in setting the pace and priorities at the workplace and how much they can influence the decision-making process of producing goods and providing services. In other words, the role at the workplace and the means by which an income is earned to afford a certain living standard, Zweig argues, is what defines a person's class.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G.S. on May 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Zweig's book is an empirical and analytical tour de force. In rigorous fashion he outlines the current class structure of the US in terms of power and control in the workplace. He proves the continuing relevance of class analysis in an era when most Americans consider themselves middle class, and he aptly describes the class war which the "ruling elite" has been precipitating on the working class. The book is clearly written and convincingly argued, and should be accessible to a wide audience.
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