Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools

By Lois Weis; Michelle Fine | Go to book overview

LOIS WEIS


Chapter Eleven
White Male Working-Class Youth:
An Exploration of Relative
Privilege and Loss

The 1970s and 1980s brought great change in the American class structure, change reflective of industrial reorganization and realignment since World War II. At the end of World War II, American corporations dominated world markets. The American steel industry was virtually the only major producer in the world, for example. By the 1960s, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, and Britain had rebuilt their steel industries, using the most advanced technology, and they became highly competitive with American industry. By the 1970s, American steel as an industry was in decline relative to that of other nations, and this pattern is repeated in a wide variety of industries, leading to large‐ scale factory closings and what has been heralded as "deindustrialization" and the "new economy." 1

Accompanying deindustrialization in the 1970s was corporate restructur‐ ing—a strategy born in response to the "productivity crisis," or what became known as the "competitiveness problem." 2 Companies became "lean and mean," with all excess fat, usually in the form of employees, trimmed. Thus, slimmed down core firms and the gutting of the industrial wage‐ earning sector in the United States were the watchwords as America moved into the 1980s and 1990s.

These changes had large-scale impact on the nature of available jobs. Industrial jobs and entry-level jobs with core firms, which non-college-bound students previously had entered, were rapidly disappearing. Fortune 500

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