Read White Collar: The American Middle Classes by C. Wright Mills Russell Jacoby Online


In print for fifty years, White Collar by C. Wright Mills is considered a standard on the subject of the new middle class in twentieth-century America. This landmark volume demonstrates how the conditions and styles of middle class life--originating from elements of both the newer lower and upper classes--represent modern society as a whole. By examining white-collar life,In print for fifty years, White Collar by C. Wright Mills is considered a standard on the subject of the new middle class in twentieth-century America. This landmark volume demonstrates how the conditions and styles of middle class life--originating from elements of both the newer lower and upper classes--represent modern society as a whole. By examining white-collar life, Mills aimed to learn something about what was becoming more typically "American" than the once-famous Western frontier character. He painted a picture instead of a society that had evolved into a business-based milieu, viewing America instead as a great salesroom, an enormous file, and a new universe of management. Russell Jacoby, author of The End of Utopia and The Last Intellectuals, contributes a new Afterword to this edition, in which he reflects on the impact White Collar had at its original publication and considers what it means to our society today. "A book that persons of every level of the white collar pyramid should read and ponder. It will alert them to their condition for their better salvation."-Horace M. Kaellen, The New York Times (on the first edition)...

Title : White Collar: The American Middle Classes
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ISBN : 9780195157086
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

White Collar: The American Middle Classes Reviews

  • Trevor
    2019-02-04 06:14

    This was a much more interesting read than I was expecting it to be. I’ve read other works by Mills and enjoyed them, but I just assumed that the white collar workers we have today would be so different from those of the 1950s that this was going to be mostly of ‘historical’ interest. In part that is true, too, hard to avoid given the relentless passage of time - but there is still much in this that is relevant and also a lot about ‘the old middle class’ in the US I’d never really considered before. And despite Australia also being a ‘settler’ society I feel the development of white collar people in the two countries is strikingly different in ways I am not sure I completely understand. But School Choice: How Parents Negotiate the New School Market in Australia provides a useful breakdown of the Australian middle classes.The first thing to mention is his introduction. That is he stresses the problems the white collar present as a ‘political’ group in society. Mostly this is concerned with the fact that they don’t really provide a coherent group. Marx talked of the working class as being capable of being a political class in society in the sense that they could exert power – that being the point of ‘politics’ after all. He spoke of workers being a class ‘in themselves’ and of them needing to become conscious of their position in society and so to become a class ‘for themselves’. Mills points out that the white collar are not in that situation, that their class consciousness is always mediated through the class consciousness of other groups in society. He goes so far as to say that within the pyramid of society that the white collar form yet another pyramid. They do not form a political block because they do not have ‘common interests’. White collar people represent a series of strata (even when considered on their own) rather than a single mass. One of the other things Marx supposed would happen, and it more or less has in many ways, is that society would be reduced to effectively two classes - those who own the means of production and those forced to sell their labour to make a living. However, while the overwhelming number of people in society today are reduced to having to sell their labour, that doesn’t in the least mean that the majority of people identify with the working class. In fact, if the 20th century could be said to have achieved one thing, it was in the unprecedented growth in ‘white collar’ occupations and the near total collapse of what are traditionally understood to be working class ones in the advanced capitalist countries.Mills begins his investigation with something of a history of the middle strata in US society. In the main this is concerned with farmers and small entrepreneurs in the nineteenth century. Farmers in particular - since through to perhaps the 1880s the US had ‘land, lots of land, and starry skies above’ and so it was relatively easy to not feel fenced in. However, the advent of the industrial revolution in agriculture and improved modes of transportation made the consolidation of farms inevitable. This brought about forms of ‘collectivisation’ of farms that both pushed lots of small farmers off the land and also reduced those who stayed to the extremes of poverty Steinbeck discusses at length in his Grapes of Wrath. What is interesting here is that the dream of being a small farm holder never really diminished while also remaining central to the American dream for perhaps a century after it was effectively dead as a means of ‘escape’ from wage labour. You know, Bob Denver could still sing in the 1970s ‘you and me out on a farm, we’ll let the sun be our alarm, kicking off our shoes, doing what we choose’. And if the hope of one day ‘living off the fat of the land’ took a long time to die, the dream of becoming your own boss and ‘small business man’ never quite did - well, in myth anyway. Clearly, it has mostly died off in fact if one is talking about ‘economic security’. As Mills says at one point, being a small retailer or small business person often involves having some sense of economic freedom, but this is a freedom often bought at the expense of social confinement. Too often one becomes tied in with family, who one needs to exploit as cheap labour, and as such these businesses too often become patriarchies with no freedoms at all for anyone - often not even for the patriarchs. Nevertheless, even if white collar workers have mostly become reduced to selling their labour to a boss and even if, because they traditionally did not have unions that were as strong as those for the working class, so that they often received lower wages than the working class proper, there has long been a sense of esteem coupled with having a white collar job that was not available for those with blue collar jobs - and this remained true even when the hope of one day owning one’s own company had mostly disappeared and when white collar employees were paid less than their blue collar fellow workers.Mills gives us a ‘sociological sketch’ of various sections of the white collar class - from shop girls and typists to teachers, managing directors to clerks. As you see, the ability to assert a ‘common feeling’ for the people that make up the white collar isn’t only confounded by the remarkable scope this class of people covers.I liked this book a lot – you could probably get by just reading the introduction, I guess, and many of the sketches of the middle class occupations have changed substantially since the 1950s – you know, there’s not a lot of point hoping to become a typist any longer. And if you read a book like ‘Love the Work, Hate the Job’ or ‘The Global Auction’ you’ll see that the process of Taylorism in white collar jobs has only accelerated. Even so, this provides a really useful overview of white collar occupations and the curious and paradoxical position they often hold. As he points out, the Nazis came to power on the back of resentment many white collar occupations held for working class organisation. White collar people gain their sense of self from a sense of being superior to those in the working class, but have generally risen out of the working class too. As the growth of the middle class that was so prevalent from the middle of the twentieth century has collapsed, with the raise of the precariat and of ‘gig jobs’, there is a similar raise in fear as people who had comfortable jobs watch their children struggle to maintain a similar life-style to their own, even if they are more highly qualified then they were. There is little doubt that the collapse of white collar jobs into ‘service sector’ jobs will cause a tidal wave of resentment – the problem is that it isn’t clear how this resentment will manifest. To date it has been chiefly focused on fear of refugees and other people ‘different from us’.

  • leighcia
    2019-01-28 07:05

    As always, I enjoy C. Wright Mills. In White Collar, he explores the transformation of America’s middle class from small property-owners or entrepreneurs to white collar workers, cogs in the bureaucratic corporate machine. The introduction is absolutely fantastic to read. The rest of the book is more methodical, but remains enjoyable, informative and thought-provoking. Mills describes the old middle class, the bureaucratic structures of corporations, common white collar professions, but also reflects on the changes in the meanings of work, success and status.

  • Larry
    2019-02-07 11:12

    Anything by Mills is pretty smart, but this one may just be the best. As a blue collar boy, I find his argument sound, and as pertinent today as when it was written -- perhaps even more so.

  • Alicia Fox
    2019-02-02 10:06

    'White Collar' is a history of, and sociological look at, the rise of white collar workers. If you've ever said, "OMG, I hate the corporate world, I don't wanna be a drone in a suit, I hate the whole culture blah blah blah," this book will give you richer terminology and firmer arguments to explain your feelings.Mills is brilliant when it comes to naming something you feel and sense, but can't quite grasp firmly enough to state clearly. This book is no exception.A few illuminating things for me:White collar workers are socially and in terms of prestige (at least as high as their own ranks go) members of the middle class. But unlike the middle class of the nineteenth century, they are workers, not employers, and they tend to own (truly own, that is) little property. As such, they feel affinity with the the better-moneyed classes, and when this is combined with their aspirations to move up, white collar workers are little inclined to form and join unions (doing so would be an admission that they are not elite, and they fear it will hurt their chances of promotion despite the fact that few rise up much within their firms).There's a nice section somewhere in the middle-end about how much personality (that is, a particular disposition) is pivotal to success in the corporate world. Part of this is appearing to genuinely care about a company, its products, etc., despite the fact that it's completely false. As you may know if you've ever had a white collar job, this forced smiling can drive you insane.The rise of white collar work has coincided with the rise in ready-made, cookie-cutter entertainment. One feeds the other.I'd give this five stars if Mills didn't completely write off women in this otherwise brilliant book.

  • Maia
    2019-02-15 10:09

    This is a wonderful and distressingly topical book, given that it was published in 1952 and yet is as pretty much relevant today as it was then--perhaps a lot more so. I've had it on my shelves for ages before delving in and I'm glad I finally did: it explains and illustrates many of the reasons behind the death of the American middle class.

  • Nikola Jovanović
    2019-02-16 09:09

    *ima par dobrih poenti, ali je naporno doci do njih bar za mene, sociologija nije moj fah*za moj ukus previse strucna, cesto ne mogu da ispratim od nepotrebnih fraza i strucnih pojmova, verujem da je sjajna za ljude koje zanima sociologija/ekonomija/politika, ali meni je 400 strana toga malo previse*svakako su delovi koji za osnovu imaju psihologiju cesto dobri i nateraju na razmisljanje

  • Rob Bentlyewski
    2019-02-15 13:06

    It's hard to find a book that gives a clearer, more complete explanation of how American politics has reached its sorry present state. Mills picks apart the American mass psyche with surgical precision. If you want to read one sociological text to better understand class politics in America, make it White Collar.

  • joseph
    2019-02-17 06:57

    the gospel for our generation, yet it takes some persistence to get through the 1950s sociologicalese. still, a landmark in american thought. we will probably never have another c.w. and that is a damn shame.

  • Andrew
    2019-01-28 12:56

    I like the television show better.

  • Nicholas Taylor
    2019-01-29 05:51

    It's a thick, complex look at mid-twentieth century society. It's extremely valuable as a scholarly reference, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it for casual reading.

  • Thomas-lily Heaney
    2019-01-29 12:16

    C. Wright Mills. One of my favorite authors

  • Matt
    2019-02-16 11:52

    Easily my least favorite C. Wright.