Class Matters The Strange Career of an American Delusion Steve Fraser

Publication date:
14 May 2019
Yale University Press
304 pages: 203 x 130mm
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A uniquely personal yet deeply informed exploration of the hidden history of class in American life

From the decks of the Mayflower straight through to Donald Trump’s “American carnage,” class has always played a role in American life. In this remarkable work, Steve Fraser twines our nation’s past with his own family’s history, deftly illustrating how class matters precisely because Americans work so hard to pretend it doesn’t.

He examines six signposts of American history—the settlements at Plymouth and Jamestown; the ratification of the Constitution; the Statue of Liberty; the cowboy; the “kitchen debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev; and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech—to explore just how pervasively class has shaped our national conversation. With a historian’s intellectual command and a riveting narrative voice, Fraser interweaves these examples with his own past—including his false arrest on charges of planning to blow up the Liberty Bell during the Civil Rights era—to tell a story both urgent and timeless.

Historian Steve Fraser is the author The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power and Wall Street: America's Dream Palace.

“Intriguing, provocative, and revealing.”—Felicia R. Lee, Washington Post

"In vivid, animated prose, Steve Fraser has combined history, economics, autobiography and home truths. The result is a pleasure to read—an illuminating, insightful summary of our nation's class conundrums."—Phillip Lopate

"Class Matters is a fluent and incisive analysis of where power lies in America. It sets about studying and debunking myths and replacing them with uncomfortable truths about poverty and wealth, privilege and inequality. It is written with passion and wit and a sense of urgency and deep personal engagement."—Colm Tóibín

“A devastatingly clear analysis of how class and class conflict suffuse the American present and the American past, despite vigorous efforts to deny their salience, even their existence. Written with great elegance and admirable concision, Class Matters offers nothing less than a pathbreaking reconceptualization of the entire American narrative.”—Mike Wallace, author of Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919

"A remarkable inquiry into the nature of class in America: sweeping, yet intensely personal; erudite, yet written with literary flair; exploring disparate spheres of American life, yet demonstrating how class privilege and injury permeate them all. An extraordinary achievement.”—Gary Gerstle, author of Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present

Class Matters is a bold and brilliant account of how the subject of class was expunged from American consciousness and culture. I finished it with regret, because there were no more fascinating pages to read, but also with delight, because I had found someone new to learn from.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America