A University of Chicago professor uses Pittsburgh as a case study to examine the transformation of the American working class from a unionized population of blue-collar men to a largely invisible group of underpaid women in service jobs—especially health care, where the wrecked bodies of America's industrial past convalesce.
... an intimate look at how a city of steel became a city of health care aides ... The Next Shift is an original work of serious scholarship, but it’s also vivid and readable; Winant has an eye for the telling, and occasionally crushing, detail ... Winant offers a lucid explanation of how the peculiarities of this system developed into what he calls the 'public-private welfare state'—a dysfunctional realm of escalating health care costs and entrenched and entangled interests that no one seems capable of replacing ...
This system, as depicted in Winant’s eye-opening book, is not only inhumane but unsustainable.
... trenchant ... Winant—a prolific essayist and historian at the University of Chicago—has delved deep into the region’s archives and made excellent use of oral history collections and original interviews ... a deeply upsetting book. It meticulously charts the transformation of the working class to show how the destruction of workers’ unions and bodies occurred in a feedback loop, with capitalist exploitation demanding care, demanding more exploitation, demanding still more care ... Although sometimes dense, Winant’s language often feels imbued with a sort of restrained, righteous fury. And while a lesser historian might have overlooked or given short shrift to the gendered and racialized aspects of the transition from steel to health care, Winant ably blends social and political history with conventional labor history to construct a remarkably comprehensive narrative with clear contemporary implications. In light of such careful, comprehensive accounting, it almost feels nitpicking to focus on an apparent omission, but it is a shame Winant devotes so little space to environmental history ... Despite this omission, Winant’s book is a stunning achievement, sure to become a classic in the field of labor history, a study of the denial of care constructed with, well, admirable care.
Winant is an academic historian, yet his book is marvelously accessible, produced in conversation with those workers, and taking seriously their own understanding of their lives ... In the process, The Next Shift reminds us that they are potential agents of future change. Capitalism is shaped, after all, in those spaces where workers and their bosses collide; it will continue to be so, and those who want to do more than spin nostalgic fantasies must understand the terrain on which they fight. This book is a necessary guide to one very important battlefield—one that has only become more significant with the momentous events of 2020—and a road map for how to think about the changing working class.