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American Jews and the Ambivalence of Middle-Classness

Lila Corwin Berman
- 01 Jan 2008 - 
- Vol. 93, Iss: 4, pp 409-434
The middle class in the United States is one of the most determinant forces in American life as discussed by the authors, and it has increasingly been so since the end of the Second world war, when a mix of economic prosperity and consumer culture helped spin a fantasy of social equality.
Class in the United States may be one of the hardest things to determine, and yet one of the most determinant forces. while this has not always been the case, it has increasingly been so since the end of the Second world war, when a mix of economic prosperity and consumer culture helped spin a fantasy of social equality.1 The belief in an expanding middle class served as confirmation of fading class lines, but the postwar obsession with talking about the middle class also evidenced that class still mattered in american life. The trouble was how to define class, especially the middle class. The knowledge that class shaped american life, and yet that few americans could articulate how, bred a particular kind of anxiety. in 1955, for example, allen Ginsberg excoriated middle-class culture in his poem “Howl,” and that same year Sloan wilson depicted suburban middle-class life as desperately meaningless in his novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.2 novelists and poets were not alone in searching for a language of middle-classness. in that same era, a group of social critics popularized a new vocabulary about and in many ways for the middle class. in their new terminology, middle class served as shorthand for the typical and normal in american life. it also came to define much of what was wrong in america. The writings of these social critics reflected a wider cultural ambivalence about the power a newly defined mass public—the postwar middle class—might wield. By diagnosing the problems of the middle class, these critics sought to control and contain its potential power. american Jews shared a deep ambivalence about middle-class power that paralleled broader american trends but also was connected to longstanding anxiety about the consequences of Jews assuming power in the

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Trending Questions (1)
American jewish class

The paper discusses the ambivalence of American Jews towards middle-classness, but it does not provide a specific answer to the question about the class of American Jews.