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White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (Inglese) Copertina rigida – 16 mag 2017

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Descrizione prodotto


Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Described as having “something approaching rock star status” by the New York Times, she has played a central role in documenting how work-family conflict affects working-class families and in reshaping the debates over women’s advancement for the past quarter-century.

Author social media/website info:,,

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Dettagli prodotto

  • Copertina rigida: 180 pagine
  • Editore: Harvard Business School Pr (16 maggio 2017)
  • Collana: Harvard Business Review
  • Lingua: Inglese
  • ISBN-10: 1633693783
  • ISBN-13: 978-1633693784
  • Peso di spedizione: 227 g
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22 di 24 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Williams seems schizophrenic - her insight and her analysis/presecriptions could come from two completely different people 17 maggio 2017
Di C. Perelli-Minetti - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
Joan Williams' book is both insightful and maddening: I wish I could give it two separate star ratings, 5 stars for the first few chapters and 1 star for the rest. As a sensitive description of some of the nuances of class in America - particularly as it relates to the broad working middle class (note the preface's discussion of how she wanted to call it the "middle" class while her editor pushed for working class - demonstrating upper-middle class, which she call professional-managerial elite or PME, classification bias to put the class down, whatever it's called) is indeed insightful, drawing on a rich combination of her personal experiences with her "class migrant" husband's family and other "class migrants" she knows, and the academic literature, which is indeed a large, though mixed bag. The 1 star review would be for the rest of the book, which, almost astonishingly, after the insightful understanding of the first half, reduces itself almost to parody of the Democratic party elite's attempts to persuade the working class to support its policies wholesale. As I read through the transition and the way it got worse and worse, I felt like shaking her and saying, in the words of Cromwell, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken." It never seems to occur to her that maybe, just maybe, the insight of those who reject the policies of the PME are on to something profound about human nature and life, and ought to be taken seriously, not as potential votes for the PME agenda, but as human beings with serious ideas, which were once those of most serious philosophers and theologians, albeit in more sophisticated language.
79 di 90 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
3.0 su 5 stelle Tries Hard, But Largely Clueless Itself 18 maggio 2017
Di Charles - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
Joan Williams wants to “Overcome Class Cluelessness in America.” This is an admirable goal, and in many ways this is an admirable book (or brochure—it’s very short). But reading “White Working Class” (which, despite its title, gives equal time to both the white and black working class) makes the reader squirm. The reader appreciates the author’s, Joan Williams’s, attempts to objectively examine her class, that of the “professional-management elite,” or “PME,” but winces at her frequent inability to actually understand the working class, or to view the working class other than primarily as potential foot soldiers in the march of progressive politics.

I have, I think, more personal familiarity than most people with the class structures outlined in this book. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, so really prior to the dominance of what Williams today aptly calls the PME. My father was a professor and my mother a housewife, so we were part of the professional class, but my father was poorly paid and worked at a large Midwestern state university, and I attended a different large Midwestern state university for my undergraduate degree. So at best I was on the fringes of the PME—college educated, but with zero financial resources, and no connection to the coastal elites. However, I bootstrapped myself into the PME, attending one of the top law schools in the country and working for a decade as a corporate lawyer for one of the country’s top law firms, and later attending a top business school. So I am, or was, a fully-fledged member of the PME.

But then I became a tradesman (finish carpentry) for some years (odd change, I know), which didn’t exactly make me working class, but gave me working class wages and caused me to be often treated as working class, by both other members of the working class and by the PME (who probably often would have been astounded by my background, almost as much as by my law school roommate who for a time, for kicks, drove a bus at the Atlanta airport). From there, though, I didn’t return to the PME, but rather, after some years of grueling work, joined the third of Williams’s four social classes, the “rich.” I am now the sole owner of a manufacturing business, and wholly a self-made man, in that none of my earlier jobs or contacts made my current business successful. I employ more than a hundred people and am personally rich by any reasonable measure. So the only class relevant to this book I have not personally experienced is what Williams calls the “poor,” although it’s a stretch to say that I’ve ever really been working class—but I’ve had a lot more personal contact with being working class, and working class people, on a face-to-face basis of near equality, than the vast majority of people in the PME.

Enough about me (even though it’s my favorite topic). Williams starts by pointing out that most politicians use “working class” as a euphemism for “poor,” when the correct synonym is “middle class.” (Throughout the book Williams talks just as much about the black working class as the white working class, noting where their views are different and where they are the same, so as I say the title is misleading.) These are people “with household incomes above the bottom 30% but below the top 20%, [along with] families with higher incomes but no college graduate. This is the middle 53% of American families,” with a median income of $75,000. Williams correctly identifies that in recent decades not only has this group suffered economically, but their dignity has been stripped by the elite response to their unhappiness, which is to characterize them as racist, sexist, homophobic knuckle-draggers, from Archie Bunker to Obama’s “clinging to their guns and religion” to Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” (though the latter two are not mentioned by Williams, an admitted Clinton dead-ender). And what they really want is dignity and respect, just like all of us. But America today is set up to ensure that they don’t have that, and the behavior of the PME is the worst aspect of this setup—which leads to the “populist, anti-establishment anger that welled up in the 2016 election.” Williams wrote the article on which this book is based (in the “Harvard Business Review”) immediately after the election, and this is the basic frame through which she views the working class—holders of legitimate grievances, wielders of righteous anger, who need to be corralled so they will support progressive policies while regaining perceived dignity and respect.

In addition to her own (often insightful) analysis, as well as comments from people made in response to her original article, Williams leans heavily on two sources. The first is the famous 2016 J.D. Vance memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” which describes the working class through the prism of a member who mostly escaped to the PME via Yale Law School, yet who could not fully escape. The second is Arlie Hochschild’s study of conservative Louisianans, “Strangers in Their Own Land.” Supplementing this are various citations to books and periodicals, all liberal (and, oddly given current concerns about the media, including several citations to alternet, a far left-wing purveyor of “fake news”).

The rest of the book is organized around questions, which are the titles to short chapters answering each question—in essence, reacting to responses made to the arguments in Williams’s original article. “Why Does The Working Class Resent The Poor?” The short answer is that the working class thinks the poor are freeloaders, and that freeloading is immoral. Williams notes that the working class views hard work, responsibility, and provision for one’s family, especially by men, as moral virtues. By “hard work,” they don’t mean making life all about work, but rather not slacking and accepting risk and drudgery (including hardships like out-of-phase working schedules for couples, or physical danger for men) as the price to be paid for a decent living with dignity. Moreover, the working class values being straightforward and sincere, morally upright, and having high personal integrity. The poor are perceived as not having these virtues—and, because of means-tested benefit programs, they often avoid having to work, by taking the money of others. The poor get free Obamacare; the working class can no longer afford any insurance at all. For the working class, receiving welfare themselves erodes their dignity, their self-respect, and the respect of others for them. Whether working class people live up to these moral virtues as much as they would like, and whether other benefit programs such as Social Security disability are just as much welfare, are not relevant to the perception by working class that the poor are parasites. Similarly, Williams points out that policies like sick leave and minimum wage increases can help the poor, but they don’t help the working class nearly as much as what they really want: “jobs that sustain them in their vision of a middle-class life,” providing self-generated, not government-generated (which is an oxymoron), dignity and respect.

“Why Does the Working Class Resent Professionals but Admire the Rich?” To me, this is the most interesting chapter, because I’ve been both professional and rich. The answer is really the same as why the working class resents the poor—because PMEs are viewed as lacking moral virtues. They may work hard—but they do it at the expense of family, and they are two-faced, climbers who value “flexibility” over grinding it out, and believe in the primacy of “self-actualization.” Moreover, professionals are perceived as arrogant parasites, but the rich are perceived as having “made it” on their own in a way a working class person can admire, or even dream he might accomplish as well. This resentment against PMEs is ongoing and constantly reinforced. PMEs mark themselves by where and what they eat, what they read, what meaningless “spiritual but not religious” belief system they supposedly follow—in short, by actively and deliberately demonstrating their “sophistication” relative to the working class, including in their personal interactions with the working class. Not being stupid, the working class notices, and concludes that PMEs lack essential virtues, just like the poor. Most of all, for PMEs (of all political stripes) “a key way they show sophistication is to signal comfort with avant-garde sexuality, self-presentation, and family dynamics.” The working class approves of this least of all; it undercuts everything they think is important. On the other hand, the rich, who are perceived by the working class as being honest, hard-working, and sincere, are largely immune from this opprobrium. The working class wants to hold to their values—but have more money, just like the rich. Williams notes that the working class support tax cuts for the rich because they “hold the promise of jobs” (and, I would say, because the rich are mostly perceived as having earned that money), and simultaneously support benefit cuts for the poor, because they are freeloaders. All this resonates with me as correct from my own experience, and my own perception of PMEs is pretty much the same as what Williams describes as the working class view.

Other chapters reject common criticisms of the working class, including demanding to know why they don’t move to where the jobs are (because work is not everything to life, because their local and familial networks are more critical to them than for PMEs, who rely on growing their own networks and are rootless) or go to college (Williams several times quotes the statistic that 2/3 of Americans lack college degrees, and the answer is that college is expensive and therefore risky, does not necessarily deliver a return, and the working class often lacks the support systems necessary to even apply to elite colleges, something Vance covers in detail). Williams also examines if the working class is “just racist” or “just sexist” and concludes that sure they are, but so is everybody else, even if the manifestations within each class are different, and for PMEs to dismiss the working class contemptuously on that basis increases divisions for no good reason—and leads to Trump.

Williams then turns to solutions for working class problems. Her primary call is for more vocational training and a de-emphasis on college—in a sense, a return to the 1970s, or to the world as Mike Rowe (whom Williams does not mention, but should) would have it, where men and women learn real skills with real value with which they can get good jobs, for while many manufacturing jobs may have disappeared forever, there are still may good jobs available, which often go begging. This call doesn’t even rate its own chapter, though. It’s mostly window dressing for her real “solution” and focus—how to co-opt the working class into voting for progressive politics they either don’t care about or actively despise.

Thus, Williams quickly pivots to focusing on getting the working class to understand that they too receive a lot of federal benefits, in order to soften them up to the joys of federal overlordship. It is certainly true that the working class gets more benefits from the federal government than it likes to admit. But Williams is tone-deaf and does not understand the working class attitude toward the government, which, like jobs, is largely about dignity and respect. Thus, Williams repeatedly uses un-ironically phrases like “bounty coming from the government” and calls for an advertising campaign where “Americans make short videos of their daily lives, thanking the government for some service or benefit that makes those lives possible—highways, the Internet, sewer systems, schools, etc., and ending with the phrase ‘Thank you, Uncle Sam!’” This misapprehends both reality and working class pride. Of course, Uncle Sam doesn’t make those things possible—taxpayer dollars do, as working class people know very well (hence their resentment toward welfare for the non-working poor), yet they are lorded over constantly by government employees who are, or at least view themselves by virtue of their employer, as PMEs. (Not to mention that at least two of Williams’s four examples are purely local government functions having nothing to do with Uncle Sam.) And that Williams thinks that it’s government services that “make lives possible” shows that despite her lip service to the jobs, family and religion that give working class people dignity, she really thinks that we are all just servants of the government, dependent on it for our very lives. Similarly, Williams is totally blind to the critical role of non-governmental intermediary institutions, largely destroyed by the government over the past five or six decades, in the lives of the working class, because PMEs don’t rely on intermediary institutions at all. In any case, Williams only focuses on hidden working class reliance on welfare because the working class’s failure to admit dependence on government interferes with their willingness to board the progressive train.

So in her last two chapters, Williams drops the mask and comes out as an aggressive left-wing partisan, complaining that “class cluelessness has brought us” Jeff Sessions, and Trump, “a president who was endorsed by the official newspaper of the KKK” (a fact she mentions twice in the book), who is also allegedly a racist, misogynist, sexual assaulter, etc. Williams complains that 29% of Latinos voted for Trump nonetheless, because they are “values voters, offended by the shock-the-bourgeois avant-garde element of the elite culture.” Not that she suggests any change to that element, or any part of the left-wing agenda, from abortion to gay rights. Instead, she calls for hiding that agenda, by “reframing American liberal politics,” while pretending to make compromises. She recommends using different slogans for abortion, by (bizarrely) claiming abortion is “pro-family.” She says liberals should cast immigration reform (i.e., allowing more immigration, legal and illegal, along with amnesty) as a benefit to people who employ “hardworking bussers and dishwashers,” while ignoring it costs the working class millions of jobs. As to civil liberties, apparently the only problem there is the (mythical) “registry of Muslims,” which liberals can supposedly use to rally the working class, since it’s a privacy issue that allegedly will resonate with the working class (pro tip—she’s wrong). We should view climate change through the words of farmers, not scientists (even though only a small fraction of farmers believe in AGW, not that Williams notes that). And so on.

There’s nothing wrong with being partisan, although a little more truth in advertising would help. But this is clueless partisanship. You know what word is missing here, and throughout the book? Guns. This is the emblematic issue. The working class is extremely attached to their guns, which they (correctly) regard as necessary to defend themselves against predatory criminals as well as the government itself, and which provide them the dignity of self-sufficiency and freedom. Williams avoids the topic, presumably because she does not understand guns, which I am sure she thinks are icky, and cannot see any way to “reframe” the liberal obsession with confiscating all the guns in America in any way that would not result in a violent reaction by the working class against liberal politics. But her failure to engage with this critical issue makes a mockery of her entire analysis, because if you can’t address this question, you don’t understand the working class at all.

Williams keeps muttering the word “compromise”—but she gives not a single example of where any moral view of the working class that opposes progressive politics should actually become enshrined in law. Instead, “compromise” means fooling the working class into voting for Democratic social engineering, while throwing them some job retraining grants. If Williams really wanted compromise, she would suggest supporting a candidate with many of Trump’s views but without his baggage. Or even Bernie Sanders. Instead, she suggests (obliquely) that Hillary Clinton could have been the champion of the working class. I’m pretty sure that’s what’s known as Peak Clueless. The reality is the working class voted for Trump because he promised to give them jobs and restore their dignity. He may well fail at that, but the working class is not going to be fooled that a traditional Democrat (or Republican) will solve their very real problems. The working class will not be mocked, and if Trump fails, the response is not going to be to join hands with PMEs to implement progressive policies, but probably something even less palatable to the PMEs than Trump.
5 di 6 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle Ask yourself, "Am I the intended audience? I know this already; maybe this wasn't written for me." 24 maggio 2017
Di Nathaniel Davis - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
Here is the short version. You need to consider the intended audience. I never got the feeling this book was for anyone other than the "professional managing elite" who are very much left-leaning. That is not to say others cannot read and take value, but I felt that many of the messages were for the "clueless" "elites." Not those, for lack of a better phrase, living the "white working class" life.

This is a book that paints a picture with very broad brush strokes. It generalizes and it is simple. With that being said, I never go the feeling that it was meant to be a comprehensive overview. I read it as being for an audience who, by their own admission, is clueless. It isn't meant to be the end-all, be-all report on the "white working class." I think it is supposed to kind of be a beginner's guide to the matter for people with no experience. Think of those books you have when you first start to read. Many schools even number them level 1, 2, 3, 4 and up to full blown chapter books. This isn't the full blown chapter book. This is level 1, 2 or 3. If you are already beyond that level, you don't read the book. Same thing here. If your knowledge is beyond the scope of this book through your own research or experience, then there may not be a ton in it for you.

As for the comments that suggest it kind of devolves into a Democratic Party plan of action, again, I'd suggest that maybe we should consider the intended audience. This is for those "elites" trying to process what happened in the 2016 election. Giving suggestions as to how to win over the "white working class", or win them back, is kind of like the comfort food to which the author alludes. It makes those "elite" readers feel like there is a chance and a way forward, that all hope isn't lost. So again, regardless of whether or not you want to be part of the plans for the Democratic party, I don't think the point was to convince you. It was to convince the "elites" that they can do something about it. They have a chance.
26 di 31 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
4.0 su 5 stelle Gorillas in the Mist - The strange anthropology of the White Working Class. 21 maggio 2017
Di Peter S. Bradley - Pubblicato su
Formato: Formato Kindle Acquisto verificato
I thought the first part of this book was interesting and educational. In the first part, the author, Joan C. Williams, examines the situation of the "white working class" ("WWC"). Williams attempts to be objective and sympathetic, and, frankly, chides her own class,i.e., the "profressional managerial elite" ("PME"), for its snobbery against the WWC.

Williams' diagnosis is that the WWC is under substantial stress, a stress it deals with by forming deep but narrow networks based on family and proximity to others, discipline, religion, and promoting those virtues that make it possible for people to go to an unsatisfying job for forty years in order to bring home a sufficient income to keep a family fed, clothed and sheltered. Williams compares "settled families" - disciplined working class families - with "hard living families," aka the poor, who lack the virtues of discipline and give themselves over to dependence on welfare and addictive behaviors. One of Williams' observations is that the WWC, and other working class members, look down on the poor insofar as they find themselves working hard, sacrificing pleasure and being subjected to taxes, in order to give things to the poor without any strings. The WWC looks at this arrangement as fundamentally unfair.

In addition, Williams accurately points out that the WWC believes that it has been disrespected and mocked by the PME. Williams documents the slurs by which the WWC has been described as racist, sexist, atavistic, declining, irrelevant and the rest. Hillary Clinton's use of the term deplorable in 2016 played into the class resentment that existed on the part of the WWC against the PME. Likewise, Williams accurately notes that the feminism of WWC women is different from that of PME women. WWC women are not interested in the "breaking the glass ceiling"; they want their men to get jobs that can support the family. On the other hand, WWC men "walk the walk" with respect to child-care and maintaining the home, even if they don't "talk the talk." The PME, to the contrary talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk, according to Williams.

As a "class migrant," I found a lot of surprising answers for things that I had experienced. My father enlisted in the Navy at 17 and become a "mustang Lieutenant" by the time he retired. He graduated college after retirement and became both a teacher and the owner of an appliance repair business. I was the first member of my family to go directly from high school to college. I put myself through college by running an appliance repair business. When I told my father that I was going to become a lawyer, his attitude was both pride and a certain sense that I was disgracing the family. Lawyers were always shyster as far as he was concerned. Until I read Williams' chapter on WWC attitudes to professionals, I had always had this sense of hostility toward professionals but I did not realize how culturally ingrained it was. Likewise, when I graduated from law school, I lacked the cultural awareness to understand that judicial clerkships were a kind of finishing school for lawyers. I immediately began to look for a "real job" because I didn't understand the resume value of a judicial clerkship. Finally, in my teens, I resented college students who spend more time on grievances and politics than on study. I went through college in three years with the idea that college existed for the purpose of getting a degree so that I could get a job. I did not view college as an extended period where I would make class connections. This seems to be examples of how I had internalized what Williams describes as the WWC attitude that life is not filled with second chances. I felt that I had one shot at college, and I had to do it once and do it right.

So, a lot of Williams description of WWC values seems to ring true.

Where Williams goes wrong is in her plan of action. After spending a dozen chapters advising her PME associates to treat WWC concerns with respect, she flushes her advice and begins to resort to stereotyping WWC concerns. Thus, Williams understands that the WWC antipathy for governmental intervention stands in the way of the WWC being a whole-hearted member of the progressive alliance. Her answer to this issue is to explain that the WWC is ignorant of all the good things that the government does for them. Her solution to this problem is a series of advertisements where members of the WWC talk about all the good things they get from the government.

But why stop there? How about advertisements by celebrities? That was so very effective in 2016.

Obviously, as a pro-statist leftist, Williams can't acknowledge that the WWC antipathy has merit. Her answer, therefore, is to equate the "goods" that government gives the WWC, e.g., mortgage deductions, with the goods that it gives the poor, e.g., cell phones, and with the goods that it gives the rich, e.g., jobs and contracts.

One thing is not like the other.

Obviously, when a person is "given" a mortgage deduction, they are being allowed to retain that which was their's to begin with. A person who keeps more of their income is only being "given" something insofar as they buy into the leftist premise that everything belongs to the government. A WWC understands properly that insofar as the government does not have a primary claim to the property of the WWC, then it does not have a primary claim to the property of a rich person either.

In other words, in order to make headway, Williams and her friends need to persuade the WWC that "property" means "stuff that the government really owns but lets you use." People who work very hard for their property are not likely to accept that definition, no matter what celebrity gives a thirty second soundbite.

Likewise, when the tire meets the road on issues like abortion, global warming or protection against terror, Williams' conclusion is that the WWC must surrender its interests and support the PME agenda, albeit repackaged under the heading of family values. Thus, abortion will be made acceptable to the WWC under the argument that anyone who values families should help ensure that adults who don't want kids shouldn't have them. But what happened to any concern about the religious values that support the anti-abortion position? To a secularist PME, such values don't exist. Further, why wouldn't WWC attitude not be "well, if you don't want children, don't have sex"?

The "climate change" argument was particularly precious. She makes an appeal for the support of farmers who are experiencing "desertification." But in the Central Valley of California, the biggest cause of "desertification" is the refusal of the PME class to build water infrastructure, i.e., dams, out of a concern for the environment. Farmers in California are not Democrats for a very substantial reason - the PMEs are destroying them by treating inland California like colonized territory.

Likewise, Williams proved herself tone deaf in talking about the 2016 election. Williams discussed the refrain of "lock her up" through a feminist filter, arguing that women have to be nice and competent, and that Hillary managed to communicate only competence. But the point of "lock her up" was that Hillary had violated the law as a public official by putting national security information on an unsecured server. The WWC watched as the PME class contorted itself to avoid the obvious conclusion that if Hillary had not been Hillary, but had been a WWC member, Hillary would have been arrested and locked up. The WWC saw the evidence in the bizarre press briefing by FBI Director Comey where he laid out the evidence of Hillary's complicity but as a PME assured America that Hillary did not have a criminal intent. Any WWC member knew that they would never have caught such a lucky break.

So, Williams' book has some merit, but in the end it shows that the left still cannot see reality as it is. I might have given it a three, but I felt that Williams did a good job of diagnosing the problem.
1 di 1 persone hanno trovato utile la seguente recensione
5.0 su 5 stelle A terrific read. Puts the cultural and attitudinal factors that ... 22 maggio 2017
Di Gus - Pubblicato su
Formato: Copertina rigida Acquisto verificato
A terrific read. Puts the cultural and attitudinal factors that drive behavior into focus. Well written, this book insightfully addresses the complexities and contradictions that drive the decision-making of many millions of Americans. A great read for curious marketers.