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The hidden injuries of class

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This book deals with class not as a matter of dollars or statistics but as a matter of emotions. Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb isolate the “hidden signals of class” through which today’s blue-collar worker measures his own value against those lives and occupations to which our society attaches a special premium. The authors uncover and define the internal, emotionally hurtful forms of class difference in America now becoming visible with the advent of the “affluent” society. Perceiving our society as one that judges a human being against an arbitrary scale of “achievement,” that recognizes not a diversity of talents but a pyramid of them, and accords the world’s best welder less respect than the most mediocre doctor, the authors concentrate on the injurious game of “achievement” and self-justification that result. Examining intimate feelings in terms of a totality of human relations within and among classes and looking beyond, though never ignoring, the struggle for economic survival, The Hidden Injuries of Class takes a step forward in the sociological “critique of everyday life.” The authors are critical both of the claim that workers are melting into a homogenous society and of the attempt to “save” the worker for a revolutionary role along conventional socialist lines. They conclude that the games of hierarchical respect we currently play will end in a fratricide in which no class can emerge the victor; and that true egalitarianism can be achieved only by rediscovering diverse concepts of human dignity to substitute for the rigidly uniform scale against which Americans are now forced to judge one another- and validate themselves.

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