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Michael Meeropol wrote

Mike Zweig of STONY BROOK has sponsored conferences on the reality of the AMERICAN WORKING CLASS for years -- he would be a perfect place to start.
Louis Proyect wrote

On Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 2:50 PM, Mark Lause via Marxism <marxism@lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

Anybody have some recommendations on theoretical or practical work defining class in our contemporary U.S. setting


I participate in a study group which for a brief time last year went into the concept of class. I didn't find much out there that's current, other than critiques of other, past analyses. That's in spite of the current naked nature of the class war being waged by capital.

There's Eric Wright and Michael Zweig, as you point out both at it for years, and I have problems with Wright.

Eric Olin Wright conflates Weberian categories, ideal types, with Marx' core identification of class which is centered around the relationship of any collection of workers, or employers, or undefined categories, to  relations of production. Anything that strays from Marx's concept to me cannot be relied on to provide a basis on which to construct further a unified field theory of productive activity and actual class composition, nor can it point out the class fractions and divisions which can be relied on to go all the way with you in thoroughgoing class warfare.

Zweig is good on the necessity for groups such as civil rights, anti-war, and women’s struggles to obtain or maintain close connections with labor (defined through its trade union organizations or how?), on how considerations of class dynamics have "been driven from economics as an academic discipline, how the decline of union power has contributed to the decline in living standards that workers experience, "and how public policy in the United States has been shaped by class power to the detriment of working people, how obvious, growing inequality reveals the presence of class differences [although what's so different from the late 19th century?], "the incongruous alliance between the corporate elite and, especially, although not exclusively, white working-class people—an odd mating which defines the conservative populism of the Republican Party," the nebulous recognition of women's relations and race differences to the concept of class, that "trade unionism [more ineffectual in the global context all the time, especially given its ongoing post-WW2-originated policy of production-related wage increase/decrease - "concession bargaining," the General Motors reorganization, for example] - must supplant or supplement what we have up to now taken for granted. ... the nature of both the 21st century domestic economy and the international one to which it is now intricately tethered [which] marginalize the normal workplace-based forms of collective bargaining," nationalism, chauvinism and the execrable role played by US unions in foreign policy - Venezuela for example, and "the troubled relationship between the new immigrants and the African American community."

Then there's the many surveys on class, which rely on answers to questions about income, lifestyle, location of habitation, educational level, how people see themselves (important in a subjective sense and in realization of where we are historically, but not in the sense of an objective analysis of actual class relations), "their sense of space in the world,” according to sociologist Jane Van Galen, etc. --  then there's discussions of culture, religion, and other aspects of life – social capital -- all of whichconceal much more than they purport to reveal about class.

As E.P. Thompson in his introduction to /The Making of the English Working Class <http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=407102>/ pointed out,

[Class is] an historical phenomenon. . . something which in fact happens (and can be shown to have happened) in human relationships.  And class happens when some [people], as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other [people] whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs. The class experience is largely determined by the productive relations into which [people] are born — or enter involuntarily.

In other words, that class relations are necessarily antagonistic, are based on conflicting interests and feelings, and that people are implicated in class experience involuntarily, which they enter into from their position with respect to relations of production.

As to discussions of Wright's work and on how to go about analyzing class, three in particular I found in my archive page for the study group are worth passing on, the Bertell Ollman article in particular; and I'd be interested in what anyone else has to offer:


There's also the two volumes of Socialist Register - 2014 Registering Class, and 2015, Transforming Classes.

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