Thursday, July 01, 2004 - 05:38 PM
Why doesn't the USA have a broad working-class movement, akin to European social democratic parties? It's been a vexing riddle for American lefties for decades. At a recent conference at SUNY-Stony Brook's Center for Study of Working Class Life, professors, activists, and members of the working class got together to lay the groundwork for a discrete academic discipline called working class studies.
Listeners' thoughts (via email):
Some time ago, I heard that a UN agency placed the middle class threshold at:
having indoor plumbing, and hot and cold running water.
On the other hand, it is clearly the intent of the 'powers-that-be' that the American worker become a third-world worker in a few generations. (see WalMart, and many others.)
--Mark in Stamford
Your speakers are not dealing with the associations of the word "class" with Communism, where the terms are laid out very clearly. They are skirting the issue of what classes have been in the past and are trying to redefine it in a way that is acceptable to Americans. They are playing games a bit‹using the word "power" instead of who controls the "means of production." You can't talk about "class" without talking about what the words mean.
What about ideas of class imported with immigrants? America started with the
English elite at the top but each wave of immigrants brought their own ideas
of class. For example, German Jews were "superior" to Eastern European
Jews.. . . . . . . .And these habits still play out. Maybe forever?