The renowned Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. Today’s post by Jack Metzgar untangles sociologist Allison Pugh’s study of the few winners and many losers of a growing culture of insecurity and what such pervasive insecurity means for labor, community, and political organizers who seek collective action in contemporary America.
Though Pugh does not use the term, what both winners and losers lack is a sense of collective efficacy of even the modest sorts once provided by churches, unions, ethnic lodges, as well as by a more generous welfare state. The winners think they don’t need collective support and action, and in most respects, at least for now, they are right. But the vastly larger group of insecurity-culture losers in our tumbleweed society seem not even aware of collective efficacy as a possibility, and Pugh convincingly argues that their individual ingenuity in making the best of bad situations, often with heroic efforts, undermines both their own long-term efforts to survive and any possibility of effective collective action that could reverse the downward spiral of contingency, precarity, and insecurity rooted in the American workplace.