From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar Man

Full post here.

“The economic crisis is hitting hardest at working class jobs, and rates of male unemployment have skyrocketed. A commonly asked question is how do we retrain them for emerging job opportunities in other sectors.”

We can’t bring the old jobs back, I agree, and Florida focuses on an important problem.  However, his semi-utopian vision of what we ought to do next has found an easy target in this post:  the blue-collar mindset.

He establishes his credibility: 

“I grew up in that culture. My father worked his entire life in a factory. I spent my high-school summers doing factory work. Sexism and racism ran rampant. Fights were almost every day occurrences: Working class disagreements almost always end in them.”

Apparently, that time in his life was kind of a classist, violent dream, rife with the objectification of women and the derision of minorities.  This finally ended with his acceptance into the “middle-class:”  

“When a Garden State scholarship enabled me to attend Rutgers, I was floored by the relative safety, meritocratic orientation, and personal freedom afforded by middle-class culture.” 

I’m glad he found more opportunity for himself, and to develop his gifts within the “class structure” that people obsessed with class structures probably do a lot to contribute to the actual making of class structures.  This is something, and important.

He also attributes aggression only to males.  Physically, I would partially agree (but tell that to a young girl beat up by other young girls in a rough neighborhood).  However, Florida is clearly appealing to (or really believes in) the one sex better than another belief in current public sentiment.

“The demise of high-paying blue-collar jobs and the economic devestation it means for families and and communities is tragic. But the demise of that old-school working-class male mind-set is not something to be sad about.”

Hard work?  Sacrifice?  Loyalty to family and friends and to work so that one’s children have more safety, opportunity and personal freedom?

Some of his economic analysis is sound, but Florida seems to gloss over a lot of what poverty is, blue-collar or not, in a fog of both idealism and political opportunism (alligning his fate with the political winds). 

Plenty of room for disagreement here…

And what do we do with a shrinking industrial sector?  with skilled auto parts manufacturers?  

Add to Technorati Favorites

Leave a Reply