American Notebook: Are Workers Middle Class?

American Notebook: Are Workers Middle Class?

Are workers becoming “middle class”? Is Fortune correct in describing workers as a “salariat” rather than a “proletariat”? A belief is spreading among social scientists and unionists that in their middle age unions are becoming middle class. But an evaluation of a number of sociological studies suggests that the extent of “middle-classization” among workers is, to recall Mark Twain’s comment on rumors of his death, “grossly exaggerated.”

We shall deal here with three arguments for the view that workers are becoming middle class: 1) objective conditions of life no longer distinguish workers from the middle class; 2) workers have the same desire for success that middle-class people have; and 3) the homogenization of attitudes and values which occurs in a mass society obliterates class differences.

1) Objective Conditions
For many craft workers income levels are good, especially when compared to those of lower white-collar employees. Yet the wages of large groups of workers, in the South, in New England, and in “sick” industries are still very low; among workers who suffer most from discrimination—Negroes, Mexica...

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