NauenThen

Why don't the poor rise up?

July 6, 2015

That question was recently addressed by Thomas B. Edsall in the Times. He suggests that the priorities of movements associated with individualization—the feminist, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender, the black power, and disability rights movements— "do not lend themselves to broad economic demands on behalf of the less well off."

Us against them, me against you: "Instead of boosting prospects for the poor and working class, the agenda associated with individualization works in tandem with rapid technological advance, the internationalization of commerce and the demise of the paternalistic or loyalty-based workplace to exacerbate inequality. ... [T]he well educated and the affluent are better equipped to adapt to such upheaval while the less well off and the less well educated bear the brunt of change."

The comments section, as always, is illuminating, with people pointing out a number of other reasons: that with weakened unions, people's jobs are likely to be endangered if they speak out; that they don't see their shared interests with other poor people; that they don't vote; that the poor historically have suffered rather than revolted, at least until things became intolerable; that they believe in the traditional American values of self-reliance and personal responsibility; that they think this is a temporary setback.

All of the above, in some combination, I suppose. The next question: What to do? What can bring about positive change?