Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class

Steve Fraser writes:

Stayin’ Alive covers much of the same terrain as Pivotal Decade, but it’s a very different kind of book. It is focused not on the elite, but on the masses, and is more gracefully written, though less coherent. Jefferson Cowie brilliantly dissects the disappearance of working-class identity in American political and cultural life. He tells a tragic story of missed opportunities and lost illusions which begins in the early 1970s, with militants shutting down steel, coal, meatpacking and car plants, as if in a return to the glory years of the unions; and concludes with the emergence of the ‘Reagan Democrat’, consorting with his class enemy, fuelled by patriarchal, racial and revanchist emotions encouraged by plutocrats masquerading as populists.

(LRB 17 March 2011)