Know Your Enemy

The Right Kind of Worker (w/ Gabriel Winant)

Episode Summary

Matt and Sam are joined by labor historian Gabriel Winant to discuss what the populist right gets wrong about the history of the American working class.

Episode Notes

Since Donald Trump was elected president — partially on the strength of white working class support in the Rust Belt — we've heard that the GOP is a working class party; that liberals sold out American labor to globalized capital; and that American workers are too socially and culturally conservative to remain within the increasingly progressive Democratic tent. According to the populist right, the culture war is itself a class war, waged on behalf of real workers against a secular, libertine professional elite who control the commanding heights of the economy, government, and media. 

What's wrong with this story? Labor historian and essayist Gabriel Winant joins Matt and Sam to answer that question. Using Gabe's award-winning book The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America as a guide, we tell a different story about working class formation in this country, about the forces that led to the decline of America's industrial base, and about the prospects for renewing labor's power relative to capital. Along the way, we take on figures of the newly labor-curious right — Oren Cass, Sohrab Ahmari, and others — explaining how their vision is based on ideologically motivated elisions that seek to resolve rather than energize class conflict.  It's a hot one, folks! 

Further Reading:

Gabriel Winant, "We Live in a Society," n+1, Dec 12, 2020

— "Professional-Managerial Chasm," n+1, Oct 10, 2019

— "Coronavirus and Chronopolitics" n+1, Spring 2020.

— "Strike Wave," New Left Review, Nov 25, 2021.

Sohrab Ahmari, "How America Kneecapped Its Unions," Compact, Mar 31, 2022.

Julius Krein, "The Real Class War," American Affairs, Nov 20, 2019.

Alexander Riley, "Labor Betrayed by the Progressive Left," Chronicles, Mar 2022. 

Landon R.Y. Storrs, The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left, Princeton U Press, 2012.

Melinda Cooper, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism Zone Books, 2017.

Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th-Century America, 2001. Oxford U Press. 2001.