How (Not) to Compare White Poverty: Class Issues, Socioeconomic Suffering, Literature

Carsten Schinko, University of Stuttgart/HU Berlin:

If the renewed academic interest in class-related issues has opened up a vivid scholarly discussion, it has not always generated fresh arguments, often provoking a return to the familiar struggles between Old Left and New Left positions. What is new, however, is the political context of the post-Obama era in which these debates take place. Nowhere have they become more heated than when white workers or white poverty are discussed, which is, in part, a result of Trump’s right-wing wooing. This essay seeks to neutralize the conversation, taking a pragmatic approach that seeks to reveal possible blind spots of the contenders in this debate. In a first step, the notion of class will be assessed in the respective camps. Subsequently, I will disentangle the peculiarly U.S.-American blend of “race” and class that has a long semantic history. Taking a look on recent scholarship on poverty as socioeconomic suffering, I will discuss a number of key texts that reflect on the issues addressed above.


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