The Making of Working-Class Religion
University of Illinois Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network January 13, 2017 Lilian Calles Barger
Matthew Pehl is an associate professor of history at Augustana University. His book, The Making of Working-Class Religion (University of Illinois Press, 2016), gives us a rich and deep study of working class religion in Detroit beginning with the growth of industrialization in the 1910s. He examines the religious consciousness and attitudes toward work and the workplace in a diverse population of ethnic Catholic immigrants, African American Protestants and southern-born evangelicals that migrated to the city. Across religious affiliation, working class religion featured emotional expressiveness, belief in supernatural forces, and held to the sacred nature of work in the face of dehumanizing industrial conditions. Religion as individual expression and a site of social solidarity was in a dynamic relationship with the rise of labor unions across race, ethnic, and religious lines. Pehl highlights the tensions between clergy, workers, industrialists and union leaders in the meaning of work and religion and the practical application of social justice. The New Deal and the decline of unions replaced class-conscious religion with a race-conscious religious culture.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is tentatively entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.