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Joan Walsh Examines Middle-Class Decline

Oct. 22, 2012
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Nations once aspired to have a middle class as strong as the one in the United States. However, as Salon editor Joan Walsh argues in her new release, What’s the Matter With White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was, policies beginning in the 1960s have caused white working-class opportunities to stagnate and decline. This, in turn, has led to the disintegration of middle-class stability, Walsh says.

In a book that is part memoir and part political analysis, Walsh tells the tale of America’s (mostly white) working class in the 20th and 21st centuries. This is both a very personal story and a historical take on hot-button issues in American politics. Walsh argues that the biggest divide in America’s political scene is not about parties or ideology or even race—though she uses the election of the first African-American president to explore race politics in America, as well as issues of class privilege, civil rights and the changing face of the working class—but rather it is about competing narratives for our middle-class decline. This social and cultural examination of the United States reveals a country struggling through political polarization.

Walsh grew up in the 1960s in a working-class Irish Catholic family on Long Island, N.Y., with plenty of policemen, firemen and construction workers in her family—a good vantage point from which to study the middle-class decline that began in that decade and continues into the present. Today, Walsh is the editor-at-large of Salon online magazine as well as a political analyst for MSNBC. She will speak at Boswell Book Co. on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.


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