Class Matters Workshops

Download this brochure for more information on Class Matters workshops.

If you're interested in hosting a workshop, please click here for a brochure, or contact me about booking an event.

Order Class Matters

Class Matters book cover

Order Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists by Betsy Leondar-Wright (New Society Publishers, 2005).

Press Coverage of CM

Classist Comments

What's the most classist thing you ever heard someone say?

(I'm not talking about someone like Bill O'Reilly or your right-wing uncle. More specifically, what's the most classist thing you ever heard a liberal or progressive person say?)

Read five interviewees' answers — and my own.

Class and Other Identities

How do you experience class differently because of your race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, or other identity? What class dynamics do you notice within your identity groups?

Here's how a few visitors answered those questions:

And answers from the Class Matters book:

Group Process and Class Cultures

Read some quotes from activists interviewed by Fred Rose

"Working- and middle-class lives are regulated and disciplined differently. The working class inhabits a world of necessities imposed by outside powers and authorities. Laborers must conform to work rules and the pace of production. Unions confront this external power by organizing workers’ ability to deprive management of their labor … While the working class is regulated by externally imposed rewards and punishments, the middle class internalizes the rules that regulate their lives …

Middle-class organizations are designed to accommodate individualism, and even encourage it as a fundamental value. They tend to emphasize egalitarian decision making and allow people to express their own ideas and evaluate arguments for themselves. Attention to group process is important for allowing individuals time for self-expression. Since people are expected to follow their own priorities and ideas, individual initiative often determines which programs the organization will pursue. Membership implies no particular responsibilities or duties, and individuals are primarily beholden to their own conscience or sense of responsibility. Meetings tend to be open to anyone who wants to join rather than restricted to members of a particular community like a work site. Middle-class politics is therefore an extension of personal development… The activism of environmentalists identifies who they are, establishes a community to which they belong, and gives focus and purpose to their lives … Middle-class movements thus tend to advance broad or even universal goals and values that can inspire a sense of mission …

Because middle-class movements consist of individuals pursuing their own ideals and values, these organizations are not accountable in the same way that unions are. The environmental and peace movements consist of many organizations without any movement-wide structure, and so negotiations with any one organization can be undermined by the actions of other groups in the movement. By contrast, unions are accustomed to working through negotiated contracts to which they expect to be held strictly accountable. They expect to be able to do the same with other groups they negotiate with, and organizations that cannot ensure that their members will follow do not seem credible. Furthermore, labor unions tend to have clearer lines of accountability to membership, and usually they must return to their members and councils for approval before taking positions. Middle-class activists, however, often speak for themselves …

Middle-class organizations also find the hierarchy and formality of the union structure foreign and distasteful … Peace and environmental organizations have few if any formal rules about membership and participation. New arrivals are often asked and expected to take part in the discussion and decision-making along with people who have worked with the program for some time. Participation and equality are fundamental values.

By contrast, unions are closed organizations that do not share names of members or open their meetings to outsiders … Close community ties within the working class produces a clear division between members and outsiders, which reinforces a sense of interest competition … [W]orking-class members distinguish their behavior towards members of their own group from attitudes and behavior towards outsiders.

The working class tends to perceive the middle class as moralistic, intellectual, more talk than action, lacking commonsense, and naïve about power."