The Hidden Injuries of Class
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The Hidden Injuries of Class

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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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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 134.6 x 205.7 x 12.7mm | 272.16g
  • WW Norton & Co
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 039331085X
  • 9780393310856
  • 301,055

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." -- The New Yorker

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About Jonathan Cobb

Jonathan Cobb is a former associate of the Center for the Study of Public Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Richard Sennett's books include The Corrosion of Character, Flesh and Stone, and Respect. He was the founding director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and now teaches sociology at New York University and at the London School of Economics.

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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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