‘Class Matters,’ Steve Fraser, Yale Publishing, 287 pages, $25.
In his new book, “Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion,” historian Steve Fraser explores the notion of class as a power that has shaped our nation but is only lately being openly acknowledged. His interpretation is intriguing, provocative and revealing.
While Fraser could have used a good editor to declutter some wordy passages, and some of his arguments will raise eyebrows, “Class Matters” is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship examining the country’s rising inequality.
Fraser uses iconic events, documents and images from American history as his raw material for six essays on why class matters. “Class is the secret of the American experience, its past, present and likely future,” Fraser writes.
The problem of class, inequality and social mobility has moved center stage as a growing number of scholars, journalists and activists have begun to address the pressures of our new Gilded Age.
Fraser could have said more about how class intersects with race and gender and how political power has been maintained by the divide-and-conquer calculus of attaching a black face to many problems that stem from inequality: welfare dependence, drug addiction, mass incarceration and family breakdown.
But whether you agree with all he says or how he says it, Fraser forces the reader to consider his arguments. His contribution is one of many that we should embrace in this time of reckoning over what this country stands for and where it needs to go.