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White Working Class

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  962 ratings  ·  201 reviews
Around the world, populist movements are gaining traction among the white working class. Meanwhile, the professional elite—journalists, managers, and establishment politicians—is on the outside looking in, and left to argue over the reasons why. In White Working Class, Joan C. Williams, described as “something approaching rock star status” in her field by the New York Time ...more
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Harvard Business Review Press
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3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  962 ratings  ·  201 reviews

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May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I am of two minds in regards to this book. One one hand, I feel like Williams's statements largely reflect what I've seen growing up surrounded by the white working class in Appalachian Ohio and the cluelessness I've seen since moving to large East Coast metros. She lays out arguments that I've struggled to put words to: the white working class tends to resent social safety nets because they're not poor enough to benefit from them; Trump voters did have a higher average income than Hillary voter ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Joan Williams wants to “Overcome Class Cluelessness in America.” This is an admirable goal, and in many ways this is an admirable book (or brochure—it’s very short). But reading “White Working Class” (which, despite its title, gives equal time to both the white and black working class) makes the reader squirm. The reader appreciates the author’s, Joan Williams’s, attempts to objectively examine her class, that of the “professional-management elite,” or “PME,” but winces at her frequent inability ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
2.5 stars rounded up for attempting and at times clearly setting perimeters for definitions such as "middle class" or "poor" or "working class". She tried. It must be said that STILL they are not completely accurate, IMHO. All of the "classes" she designates do not connote with those same exact words re similar entities when they discuss them with each other presently. They don't.

For instance, in many places in the USA, those who have a family income of $120,000 are NOT considered "middle class
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If a webcam had been trained at my face while I was reading this book my expression would probably have been one of slowly dawning horror. If a comic-strip thought balloon had been connected to my head, it might have read, "Oh dear. I guess I really do live in even more of a bubble than I thought I did."

This is the best of the 18 books I've read so far this year, and it is certainly the most illuminating of the four "How did Trump become president?" books I've read.

Emerging from a celebrated HBR
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Who voted for Trump? Williams sets out to identify these voters with this almost entirely anecdotal book (perhaps because it was literally begun the night of HRC's defeat), more of a pamphlet than its $23 hardcover price tag would indicate. Williams inserts herself into this story of the forgotten "white working class" with unaware disdain, writing harshly about her working class stepfather and old boyfriend as if they are from another planet than her self-professed "professional managerial elit ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
There's a certain underlying logic to many of these arguments, and it goes something like this: Democrats are actually better for the (white) working class than Republicans are, but Republicans win because they have better messaging. Therefore, Democrats need to work on their messaging.

Williams intuits that it's the first part of this logic that needs some re-examining: the point isn't that Democrats are *better than* Republicans--the point is, are Democrats *doing enough*? But the siren song of
Peter Bradley
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote -

I thought the first part of this book was interesting and educational. In the first part, the author, Joan C. Williams, examines the situation of the "white working class" ("WWC"). Williams attempts to be objective and sympathetic, and, frankly, chides her own class,i.e., the "professional managerial elite" ("PME"), for its snobbery against the WWC.

Williams' diagnosis is that the WWC is under substantial stres
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is an expanded version of an article the author wrote just after the election: .
The author describes herself as a member of the professional/managerial elite, born and bred, but says that forty years ago she married a “class migrant”, a man from a blue-collar background, and has spent her married life coming to understand his working-class family. This book is mostly a series of questions someone from her class may ask about the working class (a
Grouchy Editor
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Since November 8, there have been hundreds – possibly thousands – of published articles about that branch of humanity famously labeled “the deplorables” by Hillary Clinton. Many of these election postmortems are clueless and/or condescending attempts to dissect and explain (to liberals) the strain of American voter that supported and continues to support Donald Trump.

But some of these election analyses are insightful. Joan Williams’s "White Working Class" expands on a previously published essay
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This timely book compacted unique insights about growing class divide among different income levels, race, gender and educational backgrounds in our society today. I appreciated the researched and nuanced approach the author took to define commonly used labels of “poor”, “middle class” and “elite”. We can all agree that these terms were often overlapping, contradicting and confusing. With clarity, the author simply defined the “poor” as individual or family making less than $41,000 annually, whe ...more
Amy Holodak
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Easily digestible and accessible, thought provoking and deeply relevant. Williams goes beyond the talk on the 2016 election, which inspired this book, to discuss HOW and WHY we talk about the white working class the way we do ("we" being twenty-first century Americans generally, and Democrats/Progressives specifically), and how that must change if we truly want everyone to have a seat at the table.
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: readers concerned about the nightmare our country is living in right now.
I thought when I walked into Collected Works, an independent bookstore in Santa Fe and saw this on display I grabbed it thinking to myself (I have a habit of visiting a bookstore, not a Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores when I am in new places) ah, perhaps it will shed some light on the current mess that we find ourselves in. It did not. I am glad that I read it as it has all the things I have seen elsewhere in multiple publications and blogs and newspapers in 131 pages, in nicely defin ...more
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Review of the Audiobook

Published in June of 2017 by Blackstone Audio
Read by Liisa Ivary
Duration: 3 hours, 28 minutes

This small book grew from an article that the author wrote after the 2016 Presidential Election. She wrote this article to explain the results to her friends in what she calls the "professional elite". The article created a lot of buzz so she expanded it into a small, accessible book that I found to be very accurate.

Williams distinguishes the working class from the poor
Cody Sexton
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Class, more than anything else, is the crucial divide. Class trumps everything. But class isn’t just about how much money you earn. Nor is it an abiding characteristic of individuals. Class is a cultural tradition.
Williams spends the majority of this short, acerbic book explaining the worldview of the white working class, why they believe and behave as they do. And her message for the professional managerial class is blunt, just as elites ascribe structural reasons for poverty, so too should the
Terry Tucker
May 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I am not particularly impressed with this book. Perhaps I expected too much. As a former counterinsurgency advisor I was trained to analyze social disorder and the elements that lead to insurgency. The class differences referenced in this book are: a lack of political representation, economic instability, and the degree of distinction in our current form of government. This last element coupled with economic instability has created a perceived crisis in legitimacy. While many also see the financ ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Many, many people would benefit from reading this book. I respect Joan C. Williams, enjoy her interviews, and believe that her understanding of social inequality across every spectrum of America is brilliant and more researched, experienced, and sagacious than mine will ever be. I also respect that she's working to end disparity at every level and for all people, and not just for a select few. This is an honest attempt at one of the hardest topics, and she gets closer to the truth than most.

Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
An expanded op ed piece, basically, in the form of FAQs for the social/economic liberal elite that remains baffled by the betrayal of our fellow whites.

Williams is dead on correct when she locates the frustration of the white working class in their perception that they are being left behind and forgotten by the Liberal Elites. Where she starts to veer into the very pedantic condensation that she blames for this alienation is when Williams starts down the class warrior lanes.

In order to prove h
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book came at the perfect time. Several political friends have urged that it's time to make nice with the white working class, but as someone who left my rural Midwestern home, I'm still having trouble understanding why people would vote so definitively against their interests. This book attempts to explain why, and I get the phenomenon better than I did before.

While I don't always agree with Williams' conclusions, and I'm still more angry than she seems to be, I'm glad she went to the trou
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
Before I read this book, I heard a podcast interview with the author, Joan C. Williams. Williams said, “If you don’t understand why Trump won the election, this book is for you.”

Williams explains why so many people voted for Trump, though the 2016 election is not the focus of her book. The decline in American blue collar jobs has profoundly affected the ability of working-class whites to make ends meet. Trump tapped into this pain by claiming to bring back working-class jobs.

The majority of Wil
Rachel Blakeman
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is really a 4.5 star review. I really liked this book, not so much for the writing but for the content and how it made me aware of my "PME (professional and managerial) folkways" and how those differ from my working class counterparts. If you work with or serve a population that has a large segment of people from a working class background, you need to read this book. What sounds like a great idea to you and your peers could be an insult to the white working class. The author tries to hide ...more
Taylor Storey
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved it, but some of her terms are not so widely accepted. It's short which is great, but just don't let this be the last/only book you read on this topic. I highly recommend Arlie Hochschild's "strangers in their own land" it is bigger, she spent more time developing the ideas. But Joan Williams unlocked the whole idea to me. Of note, I had previously read JD Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy" but missed all the importance of it. Now that I've read Williams, I think JD Vance's is more relevant. There i ...more
Sivananthi T
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a must-read for those who wish to understand why citizens, across borders, are returning to to protectionist, nationalist, fundamentalist policy-makers. Too easily dismissed as merely racist/sexist/homophobe such simplifications do not allow us to analyse the phenomena adequately - and Williams in a stellar manner dissects the disenfranchisement the majority can feel - both politically and economically - in a society where they seem to be in a 'dominant' class. Williams also calls for, f ...more
John Kaufmann
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Concise statement of some of the sociological dynamics behind the attitudes and disenchantment (disenfranchisement) of the white working class. Also serves as a treatise on how the professional-managerial-elite (PME) has ignored and betrayed the working class. Excellent anaylsis. And concise!
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: washpost-outlook
3.5 stars
Yukari Watanabe
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm writing a review for a Japanese version of this book.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Wealthy whites, Williams argues, act like jerks and think like jerks about the middle-class/non-college educated (but largely not poor) whites who support/ed Trump, which makes it harder to understand and deal fairly with them. For many, she argues, racism etc. is just a side effect of their anger at the elites that have disrespected them for so long and who haven’t included non-college-educated whites in the groups that need equality. (Two-thirds of Americans don’t have college degrees.) I’m no ...more
H. P.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I learned two things when I opened White Working Class. One, I am a class migrant (“someone who has moved from one class to another”). Two, apparently I’m not working class at all, and never was. Williams curiously defines “working class” to mean middle class.

She defines working class as: “Americans . . . with household incomes above the bottom third but below the top 20%.” She adds in as well “families with higher incomes but no college graduates,” highlighting the increasing relevance of educa
Bill Littell
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finally something that tries to bridge the gap between Hillary and Trump voters. It's a great start toward healing our ailing democracy.
Je lis donc je suis
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
An eye opener that's worth the time, but more important, even if it seems arrogant that a book like this is necessary, it's spirit is right. We need to see through each other's eyes in America and find common ground in our humanity or we will lose this great human experiment. To exclude the other is total human failure.
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Professor Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law, 1066 Foundation Chair, founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and Co-Director of the Project on Attorney Retention (PAR).
“The ideology of natural growth prevalent among the poor and working class contrasts with the " concerned cultivation" of the professional elite. The older children's schedule set the pace of life for all family members.” 0 likes
“Unlike in nonelite families, children of the elite are taught to not prioritize family: Lareau describes a child who decides to skip an important family gathering because soccer is "more of a priority.” 0 likes
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