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victor tan chen’s “all hollowed out” in the atlantic

How to disseminate research, so that it reaches a wider audience, is one stage of research that receives less attention.* In a past post, I wrote about what researchers can do to engage potential audiences.

Orgtheory guest blogger Victor Tan Chen has an exemplar article drawing on his research, published in the Atlantic, no less!  Have a look at his article “All Hollowed Out: The lonely poverty of America’s white working class.”  Here’s a teaser excerpt:

In Stayin’ Alive, his powerful history of the “last days” of the working class, the historian Jefferson Cowie describes how the proud blue-collar identity of previous generations disintegrated during the ’70s. “Liberty has largely been reduced to an ideology that promises economic and cultural refuge from the long arm of the state,” he writes, “while seemingly lost to history is the logic that culminated under the New Deal: that genuine freedom could only happen within a context of economic security.” As working-class solidarity receded, an identity built on racial tribalism often swept in.

With that in mind, it’s interesting that Americans tout the importance of getting an education—an inherently individualistic strategy—as the pathway to success. This view was the ideological backbone of the Clinton administration policies put forth in the ’90s, with their individual training accounts and lifetime-learning credits. To this day, the supreme value of education remains one of the few things that Americans of all persuasions (presidential candidates included) can agree on. But this sort of zeal can lead to the view that those who have less education—the working class—are truly to blame for their dire straits. While many of them will go on to obtain more education, many others will not—because they can’t afford it, aren’t good students, or just (as some of my workers said) prefer working with their hands. But if they don’t collect the educational degrees needed for today’s good jobs, they are made to feel that they have failed in a fundamental way.

* Exceptions exist, of course; see  epopp’s recent post on the media’s circulation of questionable studies.  In a related vein, check out these past posts by fabio on public sociology: maybe public sociology was better in the 50s and did research grants kill public sociology?

 

Written by katherinechen

January 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm