What's Class Got to Do with It?: American Society in the Twenty-First Century

Michael Zweig (Editor)


Whether in regard to the economy or issues of war and peace, class is central to our everyday lives. Yet class has not been as visible as race or gender, not nearly as much a part of our conversations and sense of ourselves as these and other 'identities.' We are of course all individuals, but our individuality and personal life chances are shaped--limited or enhanced--by the economic and social class in which we have grown up and in which we exist as adults.--from the Introduction

The contributors to this volume argue that class identity in the United States has been hidden for too long. Their essays, published here for the first time, cover the relation of class to race and gender, to globalization and public policy, and to the lives of young adults. They describe how class, defined in terms of economic and political power rather than income, is in fact central to Americans' everyday lives. What's Class Got to Do with It? is an important resource for the new field of working class studies.

--Paul Durrenberger, Pennsylvania State University, Anthropology of Work Review, vol. xxiii, no. 3-4, 2002

Product Details

ILR Press
Publish Date
March 30, 2004
6.04 X 0.52 X 8.96 inches | 0.78 pounds

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About the Author

Michael Zweig is Professor of Economics and founder of the Center for Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Among his books is The Working Class Majority: America's Best Kept Secret, also from Cornell.


"An energetic and welcome addition to the field of working class studies. . . . This book will be a sure guide for the long road ahead for those who still believe that class has a lot to do with it--the conditions of life and work in twenty-first century capitalist America"--Ken Estey, Working USA, September 2004
"This collection of essays focuses on issues ranging from the global economy to working-class youth. Centered on 'power' rather than solely on economic standing in society, the essays link working people and students with 'others' (i.e., those of a different race, sex, country of origin, nationality, or class 'culture'). Good current information . . . makes the book timely and relevant. Historical perspectives . . . in many of the essays highlight how class consciousness in contemporary society has been weakened by governmental policies favoring the corporate elite, often resulting in lowered union membership."--Choice, January 2005
"When it comes to explaining current thinking on class to students and workers, this slim little volume may be just the answer."--Jefferson Cowie, Cornell University, Working-Class Notes, Fall 2004
"Michael Zweig effectively challenges the American academic and media orthodoxy that we are a classless society with a small number of rich at the top, a small underclass at the bottom, and a vast middle class that contains most of us. . . . Zweig examines the fallacy of privatization and draws on national and international statistics for data to show that it doesn't work. He indicates that both political parties serve the capitalist class equally well. The analyses of the ideology of class are cogent; the understanding of rhetorics of competition, consumerism, and globalization are masterful. The book moves beyond the polarity of data and analysis to another dimention, exhortation, urging the working class to organize to better exercise the rights of democracy."--Paul Durrenberger, Pennsylvania State University, Anthropology of Work Review, vol. xxiii, no. 3-4, 2002
"This collection sheds new light on the challenges faced by the working class today, often from an activist perspective. The essays help us make sense of current conditions, ranging from declining living standards to changing race relations and new forms of organizing. What's Class Got to Do with It? is a useful tool for those interested in understanding the changing face of class in contemporary American society."--Michele Lamont, Harvard University, author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigrations
"What's Class Got to Do with It? promotes the study of working class life, an approach that is broader than labor studies, which tends to focus on unions. The book encompasses a number of important debates and discussions around issues of class--notably the impact of race, gender, globalization, and youth--and is unique in the breadth of the issues and problems addressed."--Kim Moody, author of An Injury to All and Workers in a Lean World