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The Hidden Injuries of Class Paperback – October 17, 1993
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“Their work is subtle, refined and sympathetic. It is an excellent example of social-science work in which the authors do not pretend impartiality but state their values and allow their readers to learn from their findings and argue with their conclusions.”
- The New Yorker
About the Author
Jonathan Cobb is a former associate of the Center for the Study of Public Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
The Great Taboo broken here is that of Empire, which would that mention of the phrase ‘working class’ be suppressed.
And why might that be so, i.e., why might it be the case that the State/corporate/MSM regime studiously avoids acknowledging the essential, malign effect of capital?
Mainly because it would risk alerting the slumbering giant—i.e., the overriding majority of the rank and file—that such a thing as ‘class’ even exists! That is to say, one of the ways that consent is manufactured to control those who have been marginalized by predatory capitalism—marginalized as a function of its top-down, exploitative hierarchy—is by perpetrating the ruse that we have 1) a democracy, where 2) “all men are created equal.”
That feint by those courting and wielding Power has great utility in that the working class is placated and tranquilized—i.e., drugged!—and thereby kept off balance as would-be activists. The psy-op process works something like this: “Even though I am a plumber’s assistant [or store clerk, or office worker, etc.], I am just as good as anybody else in this country and—by extension—in the world, since we Americans are exceptional!”
It is an utterly cynical tactic used by those preservers of the status quo, playing upon the worst features of a humanity beaten down by elitist interests—i.e., it belies the actual antagonist (that identity purposely obscured) and, as victims are predisposed to become victimizers, it ultimately sets one worker against another, both globally and at home, as the true source of his immiseration is elided.
That is, (and, secondly), by broaching the term, its counterpoint–i.e., the investor class—is inevitably brought to the fore. This is problematic because now an antagonistic dyad—i.e., pairing off—has been determined and, therefore, also serves to alert the rank and file that there does, in fact, exist another collective of which 1) he is most certainly not a member, and 2) he is, in fact, shunned, feared, kept at a safe distance, etc.—literally, via housing/education/health care strata, and metaphorically, via elitist entitlements believed owed only to those comprising the rentier/property owning opulent minority.
The one failing I see in the book is the limit on the research - all of which was done during interviews with working-class residents of Boston in the middle of the last century. While (certainly) the working-class residents of Boston share characteristics with all working-class in this country, many localities have their own local culture, and most assuredly Boston does, a factor which seems not to have been taken into account in conclusions drawn. A more accurate look at working-class attitudes would have, and, I believe, should have, interviewed more widely-situated study subjects.
That said, however, the conclusions drawn by Sennett and Cobb hold up, even forty years later. The primary damage done to working-class within this county is to their sense of their human dignity, and it is the struggle for dignity which is damaged by their position in society, and it is that struggle which also traps them in their situation.
Some have concluded that Sennett and Cobb argue for a change in respect of human dignity being the thing that can or could change society for the better, but no such conclusion is actually included in the book. What they do say is that the attitudes of mainstream society toward the working class trap those workers in a constant and self-defeating struggle for dignity. That, in my view, has not changed since the publication of this book in 1973. As a college composition professor, I have frequently had students do research analysis of various images in the media, and have been far too frequently horrified by the students who conclude that the images of the working class presented in such shows as Married With Children or The Simpsons are accurate reflections of the character and intelligence of members of our working class. Sennett and Cobb identified the heart of the problem, and, for working class children like myself, offered us mental liberation from the assumptions made about us, but society has done little to nothing to change those assumptions in the forty years since.