Chapter 9 – Into the Millennium
The final chapter in Zweig’s book is significantly different and updated in the 2012, 2nd edition – this is the version of the book that you
*should* be reading. In this chapter (Pp:174-75) , Zweig summarizes some of the major changes in U.S. society since the publication of first edition
of his book in 2000, including:
* the emergence of China, India and Brazil as major world economic powers, coupled with diminished economic and political power for the United
* The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the related wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are the longest wars in U.S. history, draining billions of
dollars from the economy, mobilizing [1.9 million military personnel deployed since 2002 (National Academies Press)
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12812&page=17; with the total cost of these wars estimated at $1.283 trillion, according to the
Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf] We are now being convinced that our country will have to fund and
deploy troops in “Forever Wars;” NEVER BEFORE WAS SUCH AN IDEA EVEN CONSIDERED – IT WAS JUST PREPOSTEROUS!
* Expansion of the Internet, social networking and the revolution in technology and communications associated with the digital age.
* Transformation of K-12 public education with “No Child Left Behind” legislation which emphasizes standardized tests over critical thinking and
more in-depth discussion.
A few pages further, Zweig notes that the U.S poverty rate is the highest it’s been in 20 years, 1 out of 6 workers are unemployed, and millions of
people have lost their homes to bank foreclosures (Pg 177).
“Yet, even as evidence of class divisions is stronger than at any time in living memory, the existence of class in the United States continues to
be one of the great secrets” (Pg. 175).
Zweig then proceeds to trace the ways corporate and ruling class interests have mobilized to create a “coordinated and well-planned campaign” (Pg.
179). Zweig outlines a political, intellectual, and cultural movement determined to turn back the social advancements won by working class people
since the New Deal of the 1940s.
These attacks have been on unemployment insurance, social security for retired people, access to affordable, quality healthcare, and government
regulation & quality control over food and medicine production (FDA) .
Zweig considers these attacks to be a continuation of class warfare of the ruling class/elite against the working class majority.
[ATTENTION: I refer you back to the film, Class Dismissed from the beginning of the semester! Remember our author, Barbara Ehrenreich’s story about
being accused of class warfare any time she opened her mouth to discuss problems of poverty & unemployment: “Why, you cant talk about that! That’s
Class warfare between striking workers and their bosses and hired guns, used to be bloody and violent in the United States, until the acceptance of
unions and protection for collective bargaining by the federal government. This began during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s, with
passage of the National Labor Relations Act. This law legalized trade unions.
Today’s class warfare doesn’t take place on the streets outside mines and factories, but in the ideological campaigns and right-wing corporate think
tanks like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, http://www.alec.org/) the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan
Institute, Fox cable news, Dick Army and Freedom Works, the Koch brothers (David and Charles), and the Tea Party.
These groups call for massive cuts in social programs and less government regulation, arguing that businesses and Wall Street can regulate
themselves. They want to curtail or eliminate the existence of trade unions and occupational safety & health regulations at the workplace. Zweig
traces the development of this campaign back to the 1970s (Pp: 178-180).
Conservative, pro-business forces who call for these cuts, also project an intense insistence that *any* response from the left or liberals to
increase working peoples’ standard of living is “class warfare.”
In response to all these assaults on the standards of working class people, Zweig reviews the fear campaign mobilized around the national deficit.
He takes special note of the profound impact the ongoing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on U.S. fiscal resources. Zweig notes that there
has been little effective response on the part of the majority of U.S. citizens. Why not?
Zweig argues that many people have been convinced that personal liberty is at odds with government programs: “big government = less personal
Even when the term “class” is mentioned in the press and by politicians, they only refer to the “middle class” which they say is “hurting” or
1. The ruling class is not mentioned. Even after the financial meltdown of 2008 caused by bankers, hedge fund and Wall Street investors, the press
only talked about a few bad individuals who should be punished (Pg. 175) – not the systematic, institutional structures of banking and investment
companies, and the millionaires and billionaires who benefit from them.
2. The working class is not mentioned. Sometimes “the poor” are mentioned, but not the working class. It is assumed that everyone is middle class.
And, that to say someone is working class would be an insult. The idea is to be “polite” and respect the aspiration and desires everyone has to
become successful and achieve upward mobility, to become middle class. (Remember the point I made early on in the semester about the distinction
between our aspirations and desires, and the structural reality of class – Zweig Chapter 3!)
THIS ACTION & ATTITUDE IS A DISTORTION IN SO MANY WAYS!
— It becomes another moment when class frameworks, and the concept of a “working class” become erased and invisible. (This brings us back to the
very beginnings of our course & the film, “Class Dismissed.”)
— It reinforces the notion that to be working class is bad, less valuable, something to “get away from,” to move beyond – definitely not an
identity to embrace and be proud of.
— In response to these attitudes, who would want to claim a working class identity, in order to fight for working class rights and the need for
quality jobs and good, union wages?