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Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar…

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

by Alfred Lubrano

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1766106,360 (3.95)1
In Limbo, award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano identifies and describes an overlooked cultural phenomenon: the internal conflict within individuals raised in blue-collar homes, now living white-collar lives. These people often find that the values of the working class are not sufficient guidance to navigate the white-collar world, where unspoken rules reflect primarily upper-class values. Torn between the world they were raised in and the life they aspire too, they hover between worlds, not quite accepted in either. Himself the son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano informs his account with personal experience and interviews with other professionals living in limbo. For millions of Americans, these stories will serve as familiar reminders of the struggles of achieving the American Dream.… (more)

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Saw this book mentioned in the new recently and found the concept intriguing. What it's like to move from the blue collar upbringing to the white collar positions/jobs/worlds they inhabit now. What are some of the struggles, issues, problems etc. that these people face? What can this tell us about class in the US?

I have to agree that this book is not what it was marketed to be. It's really his own personal experiences (which is totally fine, because many will likely identify with him!) but that also meant I wasn't sure how accurate they were, other than for him. And I thought overall the negative reviews were correct: the book feels disjointed, it feels *very* dated in the post 2016-election era, it's unclear at best if the author even considered what it's like for people who are nonwhite, disabled, etc.

Which is not to say there isn't value or that I didn't learn but again, in the post 2016 era there wasn't a lot that was new or that I couldn't find from a NYT article or from other similar books or books in this genre.

For the right person it'd be probably be great read/resource but was ultimately not for me. Library was best.
  acciolibros | Aug 29, 2019 |
On the morning after Trump’s shocking victory, I am reminded of this book I read in 2004. Alfred Lubrano does a good job of exploring the confused loyalties and insights that result from having been inside two different cultures. You know how each world can be deeply affirming … and you see, better than the life-long natives, the terrible darkness each holds.

While I have grown up to be a card-carrying member of Blue America, I still remember the provincial small towns in fly-over country where I spent my childhood. If you did not and need some help in understanding the fury of Red America, this blog posting (ignore its click-bait title) is a thoughtful, reality-based, comprehensive discussion of what Trump-world believes and feels.
  Mary_Overton | Nov 9, 2016 |
Ten years and one Great Recession can have quite an impact on a sociological study like this. The author's premise is that not only the rich, but the middle class, are very different than working class people. Lubrano sees through the prism of his Bensonhurst neighborhood, solidly Italian and blue collar. However, the "collar" divisions don't seem as clear cut as they once were. And the contempt in which working class people hold college? That's pretty much gone too. What remains is the stories - of how your background impacts your choice of partner, profession, politics - which we all know, but the people the author quotes makes it all more real. He pays little attention to racism, saying that class rules all. I don't agree. But here are some highlights: "Children are taught, essentially, to obey and fill in the blanks. By fourth grade, many are bored and alienated; nothing in school connects to their culture. They feel pressure from other working class friends not to participate and are told that being educated is effeminate and irrelevant." It's outdated, but still a good read, and worth more for the historical significance - and to prove how quickly everything changes. ( )
  froxgirl | May 1, 2015 |
The author was the first member of his family to go to college and cross over to middle class life. This book enumerates the differences between working class values and mores, and those of the middle class. Working class values of competence, forthrightness, physical courage, worker solidarity, and the importance of family over career are alien to the ruling class. Middle class people define themselves by their “career”, however humble and poorly paid. A lickspittle in a tie knows he is better than anyone who works with their hands. With the exception of some skilled craftsmen, working class people only see their jobs as a means to get the money to live. When you enter the world of higher education and white collar employment, it is the bourgeois values that are correct. If you don’t agree, you are wrong and you will suffer for it.
When a fellow employee was giving Lubrano shit on a new job, he complained to his father. His dad, a bricklayer, asked him why he didn’t just confront the guy after work. If he needed his fists to settle things, so be it. He had a hard time making his dad understand that if he did that, at best, he would wind up in Anger Management classes. Probably, he would have been fired and arrested. Bourgeois men feel free to threaten each other, safe in the knowledge that they won’t get punched. Working class guys learn to fight when threatened. React like that to some middle class fool, and you go to jail.
And if your self-styled betters aren’t enough to deal with, your family and friends will probably feel left behind, and even betrayed, by your upward mobility. You’re stuck in the middle of the Class War.
I’m the first member of my family to finish high school, much less college. If I had read this book in my twenties, I would have saved myself a lot of grief. If you’re working class, read this. And remember, buddy, it’s their country, not yours. You got to pretend they’re right, or it’ll cost you. ( )
  WaltNoise | Oct 27, 2014 |
Lubrano writes, “Social class counts at the office, even though nobody likes to admit it. Ultimately, corporate norms are based on middle- and upper-class values, business types say. From an early age, middle-class people learn how to get along, using diplomacy, nuance, and politics to grab what they need. It is as though they are following a set of rules laid out in a manual that blue-collar families never have the chance to read.”

Open expression of anger is verboten in the office workplace: “American corporate culture is based on WASP values, whether or not WASPs are actually running the company. Everything is outwardly calm and quiet. Workers have to be reserved and unemotional, and must never show anger. It’s uptight, maybe even unhealthy, and all that pent-up aggression comes out in long-knife ambushes at the 2 P.M. meeting.”

Compared to people who wear button-down shirts five days a week, it seems that — gender stereotypes be damned — I am actually in the top 25th percentile of angry people. Once, in a conversation with a boss I talk to openly all the time, I said in what I thought was a reasonably diplomatic way that I wasn’t interested in working on projects involving a particular person whose demeanor I found condescending. I realized from his reaction that I had said too much. Even this is over the line: every office interaction must be smooth like butter. Incredibly fake butter. He also writes about blue-collar people’s incredible discomfort with networking. One interviewee actually became nauseated at a seminar on how to network, feeling that it was just a class on how to be fake and dishonest.
1 vote velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
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