Know Your Enemy: On Barbara Ehrenreich, with Alex Press and Gabriel Winant

Know Your Enemy: On Barbara Ehrenreich, with Alex Press and Gabriel Winant

Barbara Ehrenreich was an essential guide to the inner life of American class conflict.

Barbara Ehrenreich at a TEDx event in 2011 (TEDx Zaragoza/Flickr)

Know Your Enemy is a podcast about the American right co-hosted by Matthew Sitman and Sam Adler-Bell. Read more about it here. You can subscribe to, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, and receive bonus content by supporting the podcast on Patreon.

When Barbara Ehrenreich died on September 1, Matt and Sam felt an urge to honor her memory and the profound influence she has had on the American left, socialism, feminism, and our collective thinking about class struggle. From her work in the women’s health movement of the 1960s and her theorizing (with ex-husband John Ehrenreich) of the “professional-managerial class” in the 1970s to her explorations of Reagan-era yuppie pathologies and her renowned exposé of low-wage work in 2001’s Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich has been an essential and nuanced guide to the inner life of American class conflict in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

To undertake this journey through an extraordinary body of work, we’re joined by two brilliant writers who have both taken up Ehrenreich’s profound ethical and intellectual challenge: Alex Press, staff writer at Jacobin, and returning guest Gabriel Winant, University of Chicago historian and author of The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care.

As Winant wrote in his stunning obituary last week, “Ehrenreich’s specialty was to reveal her readers to themselves by showing them the other. Her humor and projection of personal vulnerability were particularly deft techniques for asking the reader to see their own position, often through identification with Ehrenreich: she invites this, beckoning you to follow her into her subject, and then suddenly wheels around on you—and you are caught out.”

Sources and further reading:

Barbara and John Ehrenreich, The Professional-Managerial Class, Radical America (1977)

The New Left and the Professional Managerial Class, Radical America (1977)

Death of a Yuppie Dream, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (2013)

Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers, The Feminist Press (1973)

Barbara Ehrenreich, Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, Pantheon (1989)

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Metropolitan (2001)

“Preface to Klaus Theweleit’sMale Fantasies Volume 1: Women, Floods, Bodies, History,” University of Minnesota Press (1987)

Gabriel Winant, On Barbara Ehrenreich, n+1

Professional-Managerial Chasm, n+1

The Right Kind of Worker, Know Your Enemy 

Alex Press, On the Origins of the Professional-Managerial Class: An Interview with Barbara Ehrenreich, Dissent

David Rieff, White Bread, White Dread (review of Fear of Falling), LA Times (1989)

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