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DEATH OF A YUPPIE DREAM
The Rise and Fall of the Professional-Managerial Class
Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich - February 2013

Photo Credits: Victor1558, flickr

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Other publications in "The Future of Labor"

GERMANY’S ENERGIEWENDE
Hans Thie
October 2014

MAPPING SOCIALIST STRATEGIES
RLS–NYC
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THE GREAT INACTION
Sean Sweeney
September 2014

By Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich – Saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, unemployed or working part-time for not much more than minimum wage: the struggling recent college graduate has—thanks to Occupy Wall Street—become a new iconic figure on the American cultural landscape. To many it seems that an implicit promise has been broken: work hard, get an education and you will ascend to the middle class.

Middle class is a famously flexible term in the United States, but here it seems to mean something close to what Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich first labeled the “professional-managerial class” (PMC) in 1977. This class of college-educated professionals is distinct from— and often at odds with—both the traditional working class and the old middle class of small business owners, not to mention wealthy business owners. Organized into largely autonomous professions defined by specialized knowledge and ethical standards, members of the PMC at times—from the Progressive Era to the New Left—were instrumental in mobilizing for progressive causes.

Today, the PMC as a distinct class seems to be endangered. At the top end, exorbitant compensation and bonuses have turned managers into corporate owners. At the bottom, journalists have been laid off, recent PhDs have gone to work as part-time, temporary adjuncts rather than tenure-track professors, and those now iconic recent graduates have taken to the streets. In the middle, lawyers and doctors are more and more likely to work for corporations rather than in private practices. Once independent professionals, they are now employees.

In this study, Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich deploy an all-too-rare example of class analysis as they revisit the concept of the professional-managerial class. Against the background of this new class’ historical evolution since the late 19th century and its rise in the 20th, the authors focus on the more recent development of the PMC. In the 1970s, this class seemed ascendant. An increasing percentage of the workforce held professional jobs, and many members of the PMC had found a distinct political voice in the New Left. Since 1980, however, things have looked less rosy. As capital attacked the autonomy of the liberal professions, the rightwing media tapped into working-class resentment of the “liberal elite.” More recently, while college educated workers, despite the impact of the Great Recession, have continued to do relatively well as a demographic category, the PMC as a class capable of acting in its own interest seems to be an increasingly irrelevant product of the 20th century.

Historically, members of the PMC have designed and managed capital’s systems of social control, oftentimes treating working-class people with a mixture of paternalism and hostility. As advocates for rational management of the workplace and society, however, the PMC has sometimes also acted as a buffer against the profit motive as the sole meaningful force in society. Today, members of the PMC face a choice. Will they cling to an elitist conception of their own superiority and attempt to defend their own increasingly tenuous privileges, or will they act in solidarity with other working people and help craft a politics capable of creating a better world for all?

For further information on the transformation of the health care, legal, and journalistic professions:
Background Notes: The Recent History of the Professional Managerial Class
By John Ehrenreich und Barbara Ehrenreich

FULL TEXT (English)
FULL TEXT (German)


Other publications in "The Future of Labor"

GERMANY’S ENERGIEWENDE
Hans Thie
October 2014

MAPPING SOCIALIST STRATEGIES
RLS–NYC
September 2014

THE GREAT INACTION
Sean Sweeney
September 2014

NEWS / EVENTS

Photo Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

GLOBAL CONVERGENCES: STRATEGIES AGAINST EVICTIONS & DISPLACEMENT

Register here. Forced displacement is one of the most crucial issues of our time. Affecting millions of people around the world every year, displacement strips people of their hard-earned wealth, stability, and dignity. It also tears apart the social fabric of entire communities and wreaks massive ecological...
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NEWS / EVENTS

Photo Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

GLOBAL CONVERGENCES: STRATEGIES AGAINST EVICTIONS & DISPLACEMENT

Register here. Forced displacement is one of the most crucial issues of our time. Affecting millions of people around the world every year, displacement strips people of their hard-earned wealth, stability, and dignity. It also tears apart the social fabric of entire communities and wreaks massive ecological damage in the process. How are afflicted communities coping with and resisting displacement and evictions? How can we support their fight? And what......
READ MORE

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FOLLOW US
Socialism in Social Networks

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Socialism in Social Networks

GLOBAL POWER AND RESISTANCE
THE FUTURE OF LABOR
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND EMANCIPATION
POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND ALTERNATIVES
GLOBAL POWER AND RESISTANCE THE FUTURE OF LABOR SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND EMANCIPATION POLITICAL ANALYSIS AND ALTERNATIVES