An unorthodox and sensitive study of ""the moral burdens and emotional hardships of class"" based on some 150 interviews...

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THE HIDDEN INJURIES OF CLASS

An unorthodox and sensitive study of ""the moral burdens and emotional hardships of class"" based on some 150 interviews with working-class men and women living in Boston's crumbling ethnic enclaves. The authors venture far beyond the usual easy empiricism of pollsters to explore, with great delicacy, the ambivalent feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy, low esteem, and lack of dignity which, they suggest, have a greater visceral reality to the blue-collar worker than the dollars and cents ""calculus of material well being"" generally used to gauge working-class discontents. Or as one ""successful"" working man making $10,000 + hesitantly said, ""I feel like I'm taking shit even when, actually, even when there's nothing wrong."" Nurtured on the American myth that social mobility is the reward of ""ability,"" Sennett and Cobb argue that from elementary school on the worker bears the stigma of being ""average,"" blaming himself for his own inability to achieve the status privileges of the elite while at the same time despising the ""unreal"" content of work in the white-collar world. Hence the bitter paradoxes -- an increase in material power and freedom of choice is accompanied by a ""crisis of self-respect""; anger is vitiated by self-hatred; ""equal opportunity"" shibboleths insure that class is experienced as a personal responsibility often accompanied by shame. Among the many recent studies of working class life (the Sextons' Blue Collar and Hard Hat, 1971; Andrew Greeley's Why Can't They Be Like Us?, 1971; Michael Novak's The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics, p. 244), this stands out both for its compassion and its willingness to venture into subjective psychic realities painfully difficult to articulate and impossible to quantify.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1972

ISBN: 039331085X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1972