Fear of Falling
 

 

Fear of Falling
The Inner Life of the Middle Class

Ehrenreich, Barbara
Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Year Published:  1990   First Published:  1989
Pages:  292pp  
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX11522

Examines the insecurities of the middle class in an attempt to explain its turn to the right during the past two decades. Fear of Falling traces the myths about the middle class to their roots in the ambition and anxieties that torment it and that have led to its retreat from a responsible leadership role.

Abstract:  Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class examines the position of the middle class in America from the 1950s to 1980s. Ehrenreich discusses the middle class and its journey, "intellectual, political, and moral - from the sixties to the eighties." What began as a generous and optimistic class, believes Ehrenriech, ended up as a selfish group, hostile to the aspirations of those deemed less fortunate. During the 1950s, America seemed to be comprised of an all-encompassing middle-class population. The postwar decades witnessed an economic boom as never before and the availability of material goods and products rapidly increased for the majority of the population. The author discusses "what could be called the class-consciousness of the professional middle class, and how this consciousness has developed over the past three decades." Examining their insecurities, the author attempts to understand the influences leading parts of the middle class to join forces with the right. The civil rights movement, student revolts in the 1960s, the war in Vietnam and America's identity crises helped to fuel a growing divide amongst the white and blue collar workers. Fear of Falling explores how the upper middle class transformed, looking towards the rich Americans to model their identity and secure their status in society. Among other topics, Ehrenreich touches on the polarization of American politics and the rise of neo-conservatism. Her work presents an excellent perspective on the growing social and political divide between Americans and the increasing stratification of society.

[Abstract by William Stevenson]


Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

INTRODUCTION: THE CLASS IN THE MIDDLE

CHAPTER ONE: AFFLUENCE, DREAD, AND THE DISCOVERY OF POVERTY
The Problem of Problemlessness
Sociology and the Specter of Class
The Blight of Affluence
The Sources of Dread
Feminism and "Progressive Demoralization"
Poverty Discovered
Infantilizing the Poor

CHAPTER TWO: THE MIDDLE CLASS ON THE DEFENSE
The Threat of the Left
The Intellectual Backlash
"Permissiveness" Enters Politics
The Youth Revolt as Class Treason]
The Profession as Class Fortress
Middle-Class Childraising: Ambivalence and Anxiety
The Revenge of the Lower Class

CHAPTER THREE: THE DISCOVERY OF THE WORKING CLASS
"Middle Americans" in the Media
The Blue-Collar Stereotype
The Stereotype on the Screen
Beyond the Stereotype
Reasons for Anger
An Ancient Antagonism

CHAPTER FOUR: THE "NEW CLASS': A BLUDGEON FOR THE RIGHT
The Neoconservatives and the New Class
A Cunning Sort of Treason
The New Right and the New Class
Permissiveness: The Crime of the New Class
Permissiveness vs. Traditional Values
The Poor and the Permissive State

CHAPTER FIVE: THE YUPPIE STRATEGY
The Polarization of America
Feminism and Class Consolidation
The Consumer Binge
The Embrace of Affluence
The War Against Softness
Yuppie Guilt

CHAPTER SIX: THE NEXT GREAT SHIFT
Discovering the True Elite
Rediscovering the "Others"

Notes
Index

Subject Headings

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