Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Working Class

My First Book is Out

I’ve written a book! The Chronic Crisis of American Democracy: The Way is Shut is now out with Palgrave Macmillan. This book is not an adaptation of my PhD thesis. It’s written in plain language. If you like my blog, you’ll like the book. The paperback is the best deal, and you can find it on Amazon and on Springer’s website:

https://a.co/d/d59Zbkh

https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-031-28210-2

The paperback should retail for no higher than $49.99. It’s never higher than $49.99 on Springer’s website, where they call it the “softcover.”

The argument of the book is provocative. Chapter 1, “The Unsolvable Problem,” argues that the American economic system is gradually subjecting Americans from many classes and backgrounds to enormous amounts of psychological stress. Chapter 2, “False Hope,” argues that none of the existing political movements in the United States are capable of responding to these economic problems. But because professionals in politics and in the media need to stay employed, they find ways to distract us from these problems and their inability to solve them. Despite all of this, Chapter 3–“Chronic Crisis”–argues that Americans remain committed to democracy as a political system. Even when we confront the system’s failures, we do not abandon it. Instead, we look for ways to revitalize it. We get excited about things like electoral reform, campaign finance reform, reforming the justice system, or devolving federal powers to state and local government. But most of the reforms we’re interested in don’t pass, and the ones that do pass do not actually enable us to solve the economic problems. Chapter 4, “Dream Eating Democracy,” examines how, over time, our understandings of liberty, equality, equity, and representation have been watered down, making it harder for us to use these terms to make meaningful critiques. Chapter 5, “No Escape,” argues that as the problem continues to go unresolved and our political discussions become more and more disconnected from it, most Americans sink into political despair. We go looking for other things to care about, and we try to hide from politics in enclaves. But the failures of the political system eventually affect every part of American culture, distorting every activity we get excited about. Chapter 6, “What If This Book is Wrong?” asks whether the book is too negative and explores whether there is any way out of the crisis.

I am really excited to talk about this book. If the argument is right, then the political professionals are failing the American people. It’s a critique that implicates every part of the political class–the left, the right, and the center. I wrote this book because I feel that people who write about politics have a duty to actually help ordinary Americans understand how and why the system fails to respond to them and meet their needs. The book is dedicated to all those who labor so that others may write.

I want to encourage people to get creative and imagine more fundamental ways of confronting our problems. I’m also interested in talking about this stuff. I would love to be convinced by somebody that there’s an easier way out of this mess than I think.

If you want to help me, there are three things you can do:

  1. Buy the paperback!
  2. Ask your library to buy the book.
  3. If you have a platform, invite me on it to talk about the book. I can request reviewer copies for people with some level of media presence. This includes podcasts! If you have a podcast, I’d love to do it.

Tell your friends!

An American Class Divide: The Aristocrats v. The Professionals

In the United States we usually don’t like to think about ourselves as members of economic classes. Most of us, when asked, identify as middle or upper-middle class. But of course there are class differences, and in recent years we’ve started to talk about them a little more. People like Thomas Frank have drawn attention to “the professional class” as distinct from “the working class”. The professionals go to college and get degrees in things like engineering, medicine, law, finance, business, or computer science. They get access to those prized STEM and management careers, to the jobs in the court rooms, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley. In contrast, members of the working class often don’t go to college. In recent years they sometimes get uneconomical degrees and end up underemployed with lots of debt. But while the professional/working distinction is important and needs to be drawn more often, I’d like to take some time today to draw another distinction, between the professional class and what I’d like to call the “aristocrats”.

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