Stebenne acknowledges that the middle class, a term that describes 'a state of mind and a way of life' as well as a level of income, was neither monolithic nor completely homogenous. And Promised Land demonstrates that white males benefited from middle-class life far more than women or African-Americans. That said, his generalizations about the middle class are often vague, imprecise and open to question ... These days, of course, few Americans disagree that the income and influence of the middle class has shrunk and inequality has increased dramatically during the last half-century. I suspect, however, that a consensus is less likely to emerge in support of Prof. Stebenne’s conclusions ... middlebrow culture’s dominance increased the marginalization and alienation of other groups; and economic growth brought prosperity to the middle class and environmental pollution to everyone.
With a historian’s eye for detail and context, he examines factors that helped propel the growth of the middle class ... Promised Land is a dense and somewhat challenging read, but the determined reader will find it immensely enlightening and rewarding.
Stebenne’s account is well-researched, evenhanded, and illustrated with sketches of the life stories of representative middle-class couples. This concise, lucid account offers a solid overview of mid-20th-century social history.