Week 4 Lectures
In Part 5 of the text, Rothenberg details the ways economics intersects with race, ethnicity, and gender to determine
how people will be able to live their lives. Countering notions that poor people are poor because they are "naturally"
less able, the essays in this part quite specifically outline recent economic trends that impact middle-class, working-
class, working-poor, and poor people's lives in a myriad of ways. The essays here discuss how economic standing
can affect the most basic aspects of our lives: relationships with each other, health, access to education and art,
feelings of self-worth, and the ways we raise our children. When one factors in race or gender issues, these aspects
can be significantly altered. For example, people of color who have attained middle-class standing might still be
segregated in low-income neighborhoods because of the color of their skin, and women of all races who need public
assistance are time and time again stigmatized as lazy, slovenly, and ignorant (although the combination of gender
and race in discussions of welfare create truly racist and oppressive stereotypes). These essays will be helpful for us
in that they present a wealth of information, both statistical and personal. The mix of well-researched data and
narratives about personal economic experiences simultaneously prevent us from dismissing these issues as mere
"opinion" and also humanizes damaging constructions of working-class, working-poor, and poor people. At the
same time, discussions of middle-class issues show those of us from that socioeconomic level that our lives are not
as secure as we might have believed; indeed, that we might have more in common with people "below" us
economically than with those "above."
Turn now to the reading assignments for Unit II: Week 4.
As you're reading the essays in Part V of the text, I ask that you think about all the ways we define art, including
what it is and what it does. For instance, art can be defined as a skill acquired by experience, study, observation. Art
is also a branch of learning, an occupation requiring skill or knowledge, as well as the conscious use of skill and
creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic, or beautiful, objects. Art can work to help each of us
to enjoy the human experience more fully. Art can give pleasure, arouse intense feelings and powers, spark insight,
raise questions, cause conflict, offer relief, even healing, etc. Tolstoy stated, "Art is a human activity consisting in
this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through,
and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them."
Consider what art offers us, both in creating it and observing it. It has been said that if one does not feel deeply the
presence of great pictures, great sculptures, great architecture, great music, great poetry, one is living at a vastly
lower and more restricted life than one could be living. It has been said that appreciation of art releases us from