CLASS MATTERS by Steve Fraser


The Strange Career of an American Delusion
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An examination of the concept and reality of class in a putatively classless nation.

In Fraser’s (The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America, 2016, etc.) provocative and well-supported view, signs of economic and social class are everywhere. “The housoleums and helipads and private islands of the 1 percent are the insignia of both their superordination and our frustrated desire,” writes the author, while of course the wealthy get the legroom while the not so wealthy are crammed into cattle-car economy seats. Even so, writes Fraser, the country has long labored to deny the very existence of class differences; it is part of our official ideology. The author serves up lively examples, writing, for instance, of the “paleface precincts” of New York and the attendant false consciousness of their inhabitants, who seem to disbelieve in class because they harbor the certainty that one day it will be their turn to be rich. Fraser’s account of how class is embedded in the Constitution alone is worth the price of admission. Though occasionally burdened by postmodern notions, his observations on such matters as the role of suburbia in advancing the no-class-in-America thesis (the suburbanites not considering themselves wage slaves “even though they did indeed work for wages”) are solid. Fraser argues that there is a cost to the thought that class does not exist in America, or, in a variant, that the proletariat is the middle class. The assurance that any of us can become part of the “propertied mastery” advances dog-eat-dog implications that in turn mean that Americans are looking out for ourselves rather than working for the emancipation of everyone, so that “the American utopia is a house divided against itself.”

Smart and sometimes snarky; a book to study up on before taking to the streets to protest things as they are.

Pub Date: March 20th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-300-22150-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2018


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