There are numerous stereotypes about the different classes of (white, blue, or even “pink”-collar) workers, typically informed by one’s own status. For example, “For middle-class professionals … blue-collar work is shameful. It is seen as simple, subservient, and alienating. By association, those who perform blue-collar labor are regarded as simple-minded, incompetent, and inferior” (Torlina, 2011). In contrast, many blue-collar workers, such as those working in a trade, see great value and intelligence in their work.
Torlina, J. (2011). Working Class : Challenging Myths About Blue-collar Labor. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
April 27 Freewriting
What are some of the stereotypes about manual labor or white – collar work (which Crawford calls knowledge work ) ? What are the social scripts that teach us to define and evaluate this type of labor? In your view, are these attitudes accurate or fair? Why or why not? How do you apply such concepts to your own experiences with work? How much of conversation or dialogue do you encounter regarding the relationship between work and social class in general? You can talk about the ways cultural norms around work are intimately entwined with cultural norms around school by exploring how there exists (or not?) a bias within our educational system against manual labor. In what ways, do you think, such educational script needs to be rewritten? Then you can explore how the recent developments in technology have changed how we think, behave, communicate, learn, access information, and interact with others about work, social class, and working conditions.
blue-collar work is “dumb” work
white-collar work is (and is the only) “knowledge work”
social scripts suggest that the most intelligent people are the ones that go to college and get white-collar jobs, and that people should aspire to do knowledge work
- these attitudes can lead people down less desirable paths; this would be less likely to happen if society valued all forms of labor equally
parents and high-school counselors push all students to excel in high school so they can graduate and get a college degree
- despite the necessity and value in trade work, cultural norms push the idea that this type of work is inferior
- trade work can provide a secure and fulfilling career to many of those who are being discouraged against it
white-collar high-salaried work, as well as much pink-collar work, is not always as knowledgeable as the stereotypes suggest
concept: white-collar work vs. blue collar work (and in-between)
- white-collar work
- high-salaried work: engineers, accountants
- working in an office: lawyers, bankers
- stereotype of “knowledge work”
- blue-collar work
- working in a trade: electrician, mechanic
- lower paying jobs: assembly lines, maintenance
- stereotype of “dumb work”
- pink-collar work: what is it?
- computer science and programming: white-collar or blue-collar?
The Relationship Between Work, Intelligence, and Social Class
For a period of time while I was in high school, I worked as clerk at a major retail chain. Because it was a large company, everything was organized by many scripts and protocols. It was a disorienting environment; my manager would sometimes stand over my shoulder, and if I did something off-script (no matter how inconsequential it seemed) she would reprimand me. We were sometimes given an excessive amount of work to do within a single shift. It was a much different experience than working at a Mom and Pop store, which I have also done. Even though my coworkers at the major retail chain were all people capable of more intellectually challenging labor, many of them were unable to afford college—and therefore access to better job opportunities. Working-class people are not necessarily less intelligent, but intelligence alone is not enough to get better work.
According to one study, the amount of homeless residents in New Jersey dropped 4.6 percent in 2017 (Kiefer). This is good news, but one statistic shows that Essex County contains 24 percent of the NJ homeless population. This totals to 2,048 people, as compared to the second-highest county (Hudson) which contains 822 homeless residents. Essex is the state’s third-most populous county in New Jersey (essex-countynj.org). As an urban area, comparisons can be drawn between the homelessness problem in Essex County and the evictions faced by residents in the poor, urban neighborhoods that Matthew Desmond describes in “Home and Hope.”