The deaths of Howard Zinn last week and Studs Terkel in 2009 have drawn me more deeply into my decades’ long interest in social class, since their respective works, A People’s History of the United States and Hard Times . . . and Working . . . (here , here, or here ) either allude to or directly address the issue.
U. S. citizens tend to be individualistic, so it’s not surprising that class and its influences are often downplayed; witness, for example, the success of Horatio Alger and contemporary literature where individual pluck trumps all.
Yet our very words confirm its existence. Is it conceivable for the average adult in this country to think “creative class” or “low-rent” or “ghetto” or “underclass” or “ivy league” or “trailer” or “trash” or “soccer-mom” or “race-car dad” or ??????????? without instantly conjuring up a specific person of specific race, education, income, lifestyle, or even social worth? A number of materials available at CLP attempt to address this and other questions and issues about class.