Scribner Seminar Program
Social Class in America
Instructor(s): John Brueggemann, Sociology
“Why do poor people whine about what someone else should do for them instead of going out and getting a job?” “Why do rich people stack the deck against poor people and then blame them for failing?” Such messages can be heard every day in America as a subtext under the thinly veiled theater of breezy public conversation or the evening news. As intense as the dispute about social inequality is today, though, it is not new. Social scientists have been exploring these kinds of issues for hundreds of years.
In this course, we will examine the definition, origins and implications of social class in the United States. This will entail as investigation into how wealth, skills and other material resources are systematically distributed across the population. We will draw from the scholarly expertise of foundational theorists and contemporary scholars. The history of how core institutions, such as the economy and government, have functioned over time will be central to this inquiry. We will study how class is experienced – as an objective material reality, and a subjective, lived identity – in contemporary America.