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The Sinking Middle Class by David Roediger

The Sinking Middle Class by David Roediger

Author:David Roediger
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Haymarket Books


THE YOUNG PROGRESSIVE AND HIS CONSERVATIVE MENTORS

Due regards to high school American studies, but credit for the flowering of Stanley Greenberg as an intellectual and a political actor belongs to Ohio’s Miami University. Credit also goes to Yale and Harvard, where he encountered both conservative mentors and a left insisting on a frank confrontation with class in ways that would later allow him to make sweeping claims to know just what white workers were (in) capable of. He followed his more athletic, charismatic, scholarly, and tall older brother, Edward, to Miami. Both found their ways to political science, first as undergraduates, then as doctoral students, then professors.25 Although he would later credit Robert F. Kennedy’s hopes for interracial organization of the poor as decisive in his political evolution, at other junctures he referred to an earlier attraction of John F. Kennedy. In any case, Greenberg was a Young Democrat from his undergraduate days at Miami, where he was also a leader in student government. As the anti-war movement grew, he concentrated his campus politics on questions of the university’s assumption of parental responsibilities in dictating student housing choices, especially by keeping women students out of off-campus apartment housing. His political science internships focused on the Democratic Party and electoral campaigns. In 1964, as a Democratic intern, he wrote a memo supporting the war on Vietnam, though he eventually came to question that support.26

Insofar as Greenberg arrived at his doctoral program at Harvard as a self-described “mainstream Democrat,” it is noteworthy that he came, over the next twenty years, to produce significant radical political science scholarship. He moved in this direction in nothing like a straight line. In 1964, with friend-of-friend access to Lyndon Johnson’s family, he attended the Democrats’ national convention as a most enthusiastic Johnson supporter. He remembers sympathies with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation’s picket of the convention over Jim Crow voting and becoming a protester who nevertheless then went inside to enthuse over Johnson. The same willingness to split differences cheerfully characterized his graduate student experience. Moving left, including on the war, and taken especially with Bobby Kennedy’s vision of what Greenberg thought of as Black and “ethnic Catholic” unity, he nonetheless worked at Harvard with James Q. Wilson as his doctoral supervisor. The arch-conservative Edward C. Banfield, Wilson’s own mentor, helped round out the dissertation committee. Wilson was for the moment still a Democrat, and his work on amateur versus professional political participation made him a logical adviser for Greenberg. The latter had secured a paid consultancy evaluating the effect of the Great Society’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) anti-poverty programs—his qualification being that he conducted a modest mail survey as part of his senior thesis at Miami. The research examined political participation by the poor in a hundred cities. Green-berg drew on the data in his doctoral dissertation.27

By 1974, Greenberg’s doctoral work had become his first book, Politics and Poverty: Modernization and Response in Five Poor Neighborhoods. He was a young faculty member at



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