In our era of economic instability, rising inequality, and widespread immigration, complaints about fairness and life chances are coming from an interesting source: white people, specifically members of the working class. This group was once central to the politics of the United States and United Kingdom, and national pride and identity were synonymous with the blue-collar work these people did. Today they live in a country that they feel is no longer "for them." They feel powerless, as minority groups do.
In The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality
(Oxford University Press, 2016), Assistant Professor of Public Policy Justin Gest
examines how this group has been relegated to the political margins in their respective countries, and what the consequences have been for their identity and political behavior. Gest focuses on Youngstown, Ohio and East London, which he considers to be two "post-traumatic" cities, or places that have experienced major economic loss without sufficient replacement, and have never fully recovered. The story, of course, is the decline of manufacturing, and Gest reveals the significant political impacts of this devastating transformation. Based on research conducted before the Brexit vote and the campaign and election of Donald Trump, this enlightening book provides much-needed explanations for how these key events came to be embraced by a large swath of their country's populations. Most importantly, it does so by meeting this underprivileged group where they live, and letting them voice their concerns. People from all political backgrounds ought to listen.
Richard E. Ocejo is associate professor of sociology at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He is the author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy (Princeton University Press, 2017
), about the transformation of low-status occupations into cool, cultural taste-making jobs (cocktail bartenders, craft distillers, upscale mens barbers, and whole animal butchers), and of Upscaling Downtown: From Bowery Saloons to Cocktail Bars in New York City (Princeton University Press, 2014), about growth policies, nightlife, and conflict in gentrified neighborhoods. His work has appeared in such journals as
City & Community, Poetics, Ethnography,and the
European Journal of Cultural Studies. He is also the editor of Ethnography and the City: Readings on Doing Urban Fieldwork (Routledge, 2012) and serves on the editorial boards of the journals
Work and Occupations, and the
Journal for Undergraduate Ethnography.