Working-Class New York
Life and Labor Since World War II
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- USD 12.99
A “lucid, detailed, and imaginative analysis” (The Nation) of the model city that working-class New Yorkers created after World War II—and its tragic demise
More than any other city in America, New York in the years after the Second World War carved out an idealistic and equitable path to the future. Largely through the efforts of its working class and the dynamic labor movement it built, New York City became the envied model of liberal America and the scourge of conservatives everywhere: cheap and easy-to-use mass transit, work in small businesses and factories that had good wages and benefits, affordable public housing, and healthcare for all.
Working-Class New York is an “engrossing” (Dissent) account of the birth of that ideal and the way it came crashing down. In what Publishers Weekly calls “absorbing and beautifully detailed history,” historian Joshua Freeman shows how the anticommunist purges of the 1950s decimated the ranks of the labor movement and demoralized its idealists, and how the fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s dealt another crushing blow to liberal ideals as the city’s wealthy elite made a frenzied grab for power.
A grand work of cultural and social history, Working-Class New York is a moving chronicle of a dream that died but may yet rise again.
In this absorbing and beautifully detailed history, Freeman charts the postwar rise and eventual fall of Manhattan working-class life and culture: "a story of massive movements of population and industry, tenacious struggle for rights and equality and ongoing discrimination and inequity." In 1946, 2.6 million men and women (out of 3.3 million employed) were working-class or blue-collar workers, many belonging to strong unions. By 1960, "white-collar workers outnumbered blue-collar two-to-one," yet on the average grossed less income. An associate professor of history at Queens College, Freeman ranges widely--from television shows like The Honeymooners and films like On the Waterfront to city planner Robert Moses's massive restructuring of New York's physical landscape; Cardinal Spellman's red-baiting of unions; the role of rent control in building and sustaining working-class neighborhoods and identities; and the role of the city in promoting opera and the arts for low-income and working people. His nuanced discussion of organized labor forms the backbone of the book, supplemented by a vivid and moving portrait of ethnic, immigrant and white culture and communities that no longer exist. Strong narrative drive, attention to detail and historical insight make this a superb addition to studies of postwar culture, urbanology and labor history. Photos not seen by PW.