The concept of the middle class has a unique hold on the American imagination—for years, it’s been the central talking point of both dominant political parties. But what is this middle class and what does it really mean to “save” it? Save it from what? From whom?
Today on the show, Allen explores these questions with historian David Roediger through the lens of his latest book, The Sinking Middle Class, which critically examines the origins and present-day racially coded usage of bipartisan calls to “save the middle class.”
They talk about the intersections of race and class, American exceptionalism, the shifting reality of “middle-class jobs,” and why all of this is bigger than electoral politics.
David Roediger is a professor of history and American studies at the University of Kansas. He is the author or editor of many books including Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day (co-authored with Philip S. Foner; Verso, 1989), The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Verso, 2007), Class, Race, and Marxism (Verso, 2017), and most recently The Sinking Middle Class: A Political History (OR Books, 2020).