The Hidden Injuries of Class
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The Hidden Injuries of Class

By (author) Jonathan Cobb , By (author) Richard Sennett

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The authors conclude that in the games of hierarchical respect, no class can emerge the victor; and that true egalitarianism can be achieved only by rediscovering diverse concepts of human dignity. Examining personal feelings in terms of a totality of human relations, and looking beyond the struggle for economic survival, The Hidden Injuries of Class takes an important step forward in the sociological critique of everyday life.

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  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 134.6 x 205.7 x 12.7mm | 272.16g
  • 07 Dec 1993
  • WW Norton & Co
  • New York
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 039331085X
  • 9780393310856
  • 305,502

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Author Information

Jonathan Cobb is a former associate of the Center for the Study of Public Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Richard Sennett teaches sociology at the London School of Economics and New York University

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Review quote

"Their work is subtle, refined and sympathetic. It is an excellent example of social-science work in which the authors do not pretend impartiality but state their values and allow their readers to learn from their findings and argue with their conclusions."

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Review text

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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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