Zweig+-+Why+is+Class+Important

Zweig+-+Why+is+Class+Important - MICHAEL ZWEIG T H E W O R...

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Unformatted text preview: MICHAEL ZWEIG T H E W O R K I N G CLASS MAJORITY America's Best Kept Secret ILR Press an imprint of (ORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS ITHACA A N D L O N D O N ~e oC) I Why Is Class Important? can think of at least four reasons why it is important to understand that the majority of people in the United States are working class . First and foremost, quite simply, it is true . From this, all other benefits of class analysis flow. Any study of society that hopes to capture what is going on in the world must approach its subject with categories that reflect reality. Any plan of action that hopes to influence events must be rooted in reality . Beyond this, looking at the world through the lens of class contributes to the basic dignity of working people. It helps us to understand how the economy works and the place of working people within it, and it helps clarify the way power works in our society. Let's look at each of these in turn. Dignity When society fails to acknowledge the existence and experience of work- ing people it robs them of an articulate sense of themselves and their place in society. We know from the vibrancy of other identity movements that to silence and leave nameless a central aspect of a person's identity is to strip them of a measure of power over their lives. A full, realistic self-identity is a basic requirement for human dignity. The importance of dignity should not be underestimated . When I was growing up in Detroit, the auto workers would sometimes go out on strike. One local newspaper would immediately begin to print a daily front-page chart showing the amount of pay the strikers were losing and 3 I I 6 2 The Working (lass Majority how much of a raise they would have to get to make up the loss over the life of the contract. It didn't take long before the losses could not be made up. But, for the workers involved, the issues of the strike could not be reduced to a straight financial accounting; the newspaper's approach missed the point and had little influence among the strikers. Pay was im- portant, but the strike was really an insistence that the company treat the workers with respect for the work they did and for their humanity. Sim- ilarly, almost every union organizing drive revolves around dignity and the many ways employers rob their workers of it. In the last half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, the United States had a vibrant working class culture : theater, magazines, and a whole literary world dedicated to working class life. Working class newspapers with broad circulation addressed all questions of society. Work- ing class social dubs and political parties brought working people together. All these helped define the lives and assert the interests of working people....
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This document was uploaded on 10/27/2011 for the course LABOR STUD 100 at Rutgers.

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Zweig+-+Why+is+Class+Important - MICHAEL ZWEIG T H E W O R...

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