Housekeeping note: As previously mentioned, I've been on an unexpectedly long Internet hiatus, first finishing off one Atlantic project -- and then preparing for another, about which I'm more excited than by anything in quite a long while. I'll be preparing to say more about that later this spring.
For now, to smooth the return to online presence, here is a dispatch I wrote for the latest edition of the Next Economy project, run jointly by The Atlantic and National Journal. The theme in this installment is an examination of what it means, now, to be "middle class," after many decades of economic pressure pushing people both up and down and away from the middle. My part of the project was to ask what the idea of middle-classness has meant to America. The results are in the brief item below.
When sociologists or historians have looked at the United States, they have quickly identified important differences of class. Indentured servants versus free settlers in the colonial era, sharecroppers versus landowners in the post-Civil War South, labor versus management in America's industrial age. Some of the most influential examinations of American culture and politics have applied a class-conscious perspective. These range from academic studies such as John Dollard's Caste and Class in a Southern Town, to novels such as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, to great works of journalism such as J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground, his chronicle of the struggles over school desegregation that polarized Boston in the 1970s.