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[Xmca-l] coming up short-material reality and consciousness formation
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- Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2013 18:06:57 +0000
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INTERESTING SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY WITH 100 WORKING CLASS YOUNG ADULTS THAT ILLUSTRATES HOW CONSCIOUSNESS AND SENSIBILITIES ARE SHAPED BY MATERIAL REALITY, THE SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS OF THE SOCIETY IN THE PARTICULAR HISTORICAL PERIOD WHICH WE GROW UP.
I WOULD ADD THAT IT PRESENTS THE RESULTS OF THE HEGEMONIC TRIUMPH (SO FAR) OF THE US RULING CLASS, WITH ITS INCESSANT BOMBARDMENT OF INDIVIDUALISTIC IDEOLOGY THROUGH ALL BRANCHES OF CORPORATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA
Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty Hardcover
by Jennifer M. Silva
(Nov 22 interview with Jennifer Silva can be heard on Doug Henwood's radio show “Behind the News” at
What does it mean to grow up today as working-class young adults? How does the economic and social instability left in the wake of neoliberalism shape their identities, their understandings of the American Dream, and their futures?
Coming Up Short illuminates the transition to adulthood for working-class men and women. Moving away from easy labels such as the "Peter Pan generation," Jennifer Silva reveals the far bleaker picture of how the erosion of traditional markers of adulthood-marriage, a steady job, a house of one's own-has changed what it means to grow up as part of the post-industrial working class. Based on one hundred interviews with working-class people in two towns-Lowell, Massachusetts, and Richmond, Virginia-Silva sheds light on their experience of heightened economic insecurity, deepening inequality, and uncertainty about marriage and family. Silva argues that, for these men and women, coming of age means coming to terms with the absence of choice. As possibilities and hope contract, moving into adulthood has been re-defined as a process of personal struggle-an adult is no longer someone with a small home and a reliable car, but someone who has faced and overcome personal demons to reconstruct a transformed self. Indeed, rather than turn to politics to restore the traditional working class, this generation builds meaning and dignity through the struggle to exorcise the demons of familial abuse, mental health problems, addiction, or betrayal in past relationships. This dramatic and largely unnoticed shift reduces becoming an adult to solitary suffering, self-blame, and an endless seeking for signs of progress.
This powerfully written book focuses on those who are most vulnerable-young, working-class people, including African-Americans, women, and single parents-and reveals what, in very real terms, the demise of the social safety net means to their fragile hold on the American Dream.
Cogent review by novelist Phil Terrana at Amazon.com:
Struggling in the modern world, August 9, 2013
One cannot help but be aware of the big problems facing this nation and the even bigger debate going on to find solutions to these problems. At the core of the struggle are those individuals and families trying to hold on to what they have acquired in the face of lost jobs and a collapsing housing market; and the 20 and 30-year olds trying to stake their place in the American economy.
In regard to the younger generation, "Coming Up Short" adds greatly to the debate by putting human faces on the problem. The people Jennifer Silva interviewed face a myriad of problems--some the result of their doings and some through no fault of their own. What they all seem to share is a belief that they must endure these struggles alone.
They have lost faith in the idea of a common struggle because time and again society (whether it be the job market, education, the military, the government or even their own families) has let them down. They have chosen to go it alone because they think it is their only choice. Their parent and grandparents grew up in societies with more effective safety nets and took advantage of them.
The people Silva interviews are not lazy, ignorant, or unmotivated. In overcoming their own demons, they demonstrate personal strengths that have throughout our history been the cornerstone to our success.
What holds them back is a thirty-year movement that seems to push the idea that successful people do it on their own. For 30 years we have worried about investors and have let workers fall by the wayside. Those already in the workforce during this period have, by making adjustments, been able to survive this assault although they won't come away unscathed. This book, on a very personal level, demonstrates what those trying to get into the game are going up against.
As a nation we must stop looking at issues of living wages, deregulation, universal health care, student loans, and a whole host of others from a strictly cost effective point of view. Jennifer Silva drives home very well the point that there are real people at the heart of all these issues.