Fraser is scarcely the first person to mount a critique of American exceptionalism. That said, his analysis is fresh and compelling, grounded in detailed accounts of six signposts of mythic memory that illustrate how social class has been removed from our national conversation ... Fraser knows that in the 21st century the nature of work is changing and the term proletariat may no longer be relevant. Nonetheless, he concludes, it's as important as ever to recognize that ignoring class - and failing to deconstruct 'the myth of a classless society' - is a dangerous and destructive mistake.
His interpretation is intriguing, provocative and revealing. While Fraser could have used a good editor to declutter some wordy passages, and some of his arguments will raise eyebrows, Class Matters is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship examining the country’s rising inequality ... Fraser sprinkles personal stories among his essays. He writes about growing up in suburbia, for instance, and his work as a political activist, including a harrowing summer down South as a freedom fighter. The side trip renditions are uneven: Some feel like distractions, some are inserted clumsily, others are instructive. And while Class Matters is shot through with illuminating passages, Fraser could have said more about how class intersects with race and gender and how political power has been maintained by the divide-and-conquer calculus of attaching a black face to many problems that stem from inequality ... Whether you agree with all he says or how he says it, Fraser forces the reader to consider his arguments. His contribution is one of many that we should embrace in this time of reckoning over what this country stands for and where it needs to go.
As a title Class Matters is, I believe, a misnomer...the intricate calibrations of class—upper-middle, lower-middle and the rest—are not of the least of interest to Mr. Fraser. Class, for him, is a synonym for power, or want of power, and, in his view, there are two classes, and two classes only: those who have power and those who don’t ... Productive in so many ways, America has let Mr. Fraser down by failing to produce a true proletariat, one that would carry on the class struggle that is the true name of his desire ... If the utopia that was meant to be America by its early settlers has failed, my guess is that Mr. Fraser would argue this is no reason to eschew the dream of utopianism generally...In the rubble of the tower of Babel, the first of humankind’s utopias, with its architectural plan to reach heaven from earth, the following two-line poem is said to have survived: 'Those who in Elysian fields would dwell, / Do but extend the boundaries of hell.' Mr. Fraser might wish to consider having those lines framed and set on a wall in his living room, there for him to contemplate daily.