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Fear of Falling


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The ``central character'' in this breezy foray into popular sociology is the ``professional middle class,'' a loosely defined group the author castigates as elitist, self-absorbed, and selfish. Other players include the lower and working classes, the New Class (the liberal wing of the middle class), and yuppies, who are passionately denounced and, oddly, spoken of only in the past tense. Ehrenreich, an active socialist and author of The Hearts of Men ( LJ 7/83) and For Her Own Good ( LJ 8/78), concludes that the middle class needs to become more caring and inclusive (``welcoming everyone, until there remains no other class''). An interesting but ephemeral book.-- Kenneth F. Kister, Poynter Inst. for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ehrenreich charges that the U.S. middle class (especially professionals) has retreated from liberalism to a meaner, more selfish outlook. Within this shift, she claims, the New Right successfully waged a spurious, sloganeering campaign asserting that liberalism represents the interests of a narrow elite. In an analysis that should be a starting point for future debate, Ehrenreich, author of six books and columnist for Mother Jones and Ms. , exposes many myths and shibboleths, among them the media's ``discovery'' of an alleged general rightward drift, the supposed hedonism of yuppies and the notion that most hardhats are conservatives. Faulting liberals' ``shameful silence'' on Reagan's economic and social policies, she urges the middle class to join America's working-class majority in an effort to redistribute wealth and power downward to those who need it most. (Aug.)

"Brilliant social analysis and intellectual history, quite possibly the best on the subject since Tocqueville's."-- "Chicago Tribune""Important, invaluable, controversial ... a major accomplishment .... Fiercely lucid and provocative, "Fear of Falling" is as much a book of the late 1980's as Daniel Bell's "The End of Ideology" or David Reisman's The Lonely Crowd were books of the 1950's" --" Los Angeles Times Book Review ""Rich and politically provocative ... Ehrenreich's most ambitious and impressive book" --" Philadelphia Inquirer""Her juicy arguments are a tonic .... It would be hard to find a wittier, more insightful guide to the last three decades than Ehrenreich. Arguing with her is part of the pleasure" "-- Newsweek ""Deeply pleasurable because of its splendid writing and telling detail."--" Boston Globe""Shrewd, readable, and plainspoken""--The New Yorker"

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