The end of working-class culture

From an essay by Barbara and John Ehrenreich, in Between Labor and Capital

The accumulation and concentration of capital which occurred in the last decades of the 19th century allowed for an extensive reorganization of working-class life — both in the community and in the workplace. This reorganization was aimed at both social control and the development of a mass consumer market. The net effect of this drive to reorganize and reshape working-class life with the social atomization of the working class: the fragmentation of work (and workers) in the productive process, a withdrawal of aspirations from the workplace into private goals, the disruption of indigenous networks of support and mutual aid, the destruction of autonomous working-class culture and its replacement by “mass culture” defined by the privatized consumption of commodities (health care, recreation, etc.)

The most fiendish aspect of this process was its retrospective invisibility.

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