This book examines Americans and their beliefs about the class divide in the United States. It argues that Americans’ beliefs about class and the economic divide develop through a multistep process. Economic affluence influences the development of worldview, measured in terms of ideology, partisanship, and self-identified class consciousness. Class consciousness in turn affects how people look at political and economic issues. This book is intended for scholars and students at every level who study inequality from a political, economic, or sociological position, along with general readers with a growing interest in and awareness of the effects of inequality on our democracy, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the resulting economic contraction, and the protests over racial injustice erupting throughout the world in 2020.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Inequality and American Political Consciousness
Coronavirus as a Historical Landmark Moment?
What We Know About Inequality and Politics
Problems with Previous Research
Critical Theory, Class, and Inequality
Chapter 2: Rising Inequality: A History of Political-Economic Change
The Minimum Wage’s Decline
Policy Inaction and Rising Costs of Services
Growing Inequality, Declining Opportunity
Coronavirus and Economic Collapse: Inequality Intensifies
Public Opinion on Inequality
The Coronavirus Pandemic and Inequality Recognition
Consciousness for the Capitalist Class?
Chapter 3: The Formation of Economic Consciousness
Measuring Economic Consciousness
Competing Approaches to Studying Economic Consciousness
Interviewing Americans on Inequality
Examining Predictors of Economic Consciousness
Intersectionality and Economic Consciousness
Chapter 4: The Development of Economic Consciousness
Interviews: The First Wave
Interviews: The Second Wave
The Importance of Economic and Social Attitudes
Coronavirus as a Catalyst for Increasing Concerns with Inequality?
Chapter 5: Economic Realism, American Exceptionalism, and Their Impact on Attitudes and Voter Preferences
Exceptionalism, Realism, and Foreign Policy Beliefs
Chapter 6: Class is a Five Letter Dirty Word: or How the Media Fail to Cover Inequality
What We Know About Politics, the Media, and Economics
Media Discourse on Class and Inequality
The 2016 Presidential Election
Coronavirus and Inequality Coverage
Chapter 7: Inequality and Media Effects on Public Opinion
Inequality and the 2016 Election
Commodity Fetishism and the Economic Divide
Coronavirus, Inequality, and Media Effects?
Chapter 8: The Economics of Disillusionment: Growing Resistance to Neoliberal Political-Economy
Economic Determinism, Relative Deprivation, and Counter-Hegemony
Strain Theory, Marxism, and Hegemony
Relative Deprivation and Counter-Hegemonic Ideology, Post-2008
Personal Finances and Political-Economic Attitudes
Changing Finances and Attitude Formation
Coronavirus as a Catalyst for Shifting Public Opinion
Chapter 9: Rebellion in America: Protest, Inequality, and Insecurity
Insecurity and the Welfare State: The Food Stamp Challenge
The Food Stamp Challenge: A Closer Look
Social Movements, Economic Insecurity, and Protest
The Madison Protests
Occupy Wall Street
"Fight for $15"
The Affordable Care Act Repeal
The Economics of Protest: Public Opinion of Progressive Social Movements
The Trump Uprising: A Mythic Rebellion Against Neoliberalism
Bernie Sanders and the Politics of Insecurity
Coronavirus as a Catalyst for Progressive Activism
The 2018 and 2020 Elections
Prospects for Change?
Anthony R. DiMaggio is Associate Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University and the author of a variety of books on mass media and politics—most recently, Rebellion in America (Routledge, 2020) and Political Power in America (SUNY Press, 2019). He has remained active over the last few decades in social movements and as an avid social commentator in the field of American politics.
Why is there no socialism in the United States? DiMaggio’s landmark study, Unequal America, achieves the gold standard of theory and research, answering that question through careful review of survey data, interviews, considerations of American history, news media and recent social movements. His exhaustive analysis shows why Americans generally have little critical understanding of the class system, which is obscured by beliefs that most American are "middle class," that hard work leads to success, and that the poor live well. His analysis is a must read for all scholars, policy makers and activists concerned with understanding inequality and how to change it.
--Lauren Langman, Professor, Department of Sociology, Loyola University--Chicago
Author of God, Guns, Gold, and Glory: American Character and its Discontents
Amid the explosion of books now available on economic inequality, DiMaggio’s book is as sobering as it is provocative. Few studies look at how economic inequality shapes consciousness, but this book shows that false consciousness is an essential feature of capitalism and the inequality it breeds. DiMaggio provides us with something other scholars of inequality consistently overlook: that inequality creates its own system of justification, sealing it off from criticism and social change. His book is as rigorous as it is bold, and it is essential reading for anyone studying economic inequality. His political acumen is matched by his social scientific skill, and the result is a major step forward in our understanding of inequality.
--Michael J. Thompson, Professor of Political Science, William Paterson University
Author of The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America
From a strong theoretical base and using a mixed-method empirical approach, DiMaggio presents a comprehensive examination of the way Americans think about economic inequality. This volume offers a glimpse into the American mind, fully supported from both novel and previously available data and complete with discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers will find the results of his interviews compelling, in conjunction with the public opinion data that undergirds their depth and power. DiMaggio neatly weaves discussion of trends in public opinion about inequality with the reasons for it, as he creates an accessible narrative that will inspire readers to grapple with some of the core challenges of our time.
--Stephen Caliendo, Dean of College of Arts and Science, North Central College
Author of Inequality in America: Race, Poverty, and Fulfilling Democracy’s Promise