Rich Yeselson

Rich Yeselson lives and writes in Washington, D.C.

Recent Articles

Harnessing the Power of the New Working Class

If the new proletariat starts identifying as a class, it could transform politics. 

Erik Mc Gregor/Pacific Press/Sipa via AP Images
Erik Mc Gregor/Pacific Press/Sipa via AP Images Labor leaders, clergy and elected officials rally at the New York State Capitol For $15 minimum wage on March 15, 2016. This book review appears in the Spring 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America By Tamara Draut Doubleday T here is a classic sociological distinction between workers who are politically conscious of their economic class and those who are not. Leftist theorists have spoken of the difference between “class in itself”—an objective category defined by a worker’s relationship to capital—and “class for itself.” The latter concept refers to a class having become consciously aware of its own exploitation, and its workers actively fighting to overcome it. Karl Marx alluded to the distinction in his early work The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). We can understand how the political economy works by studying class in a seminar room. Unjust...

The Year in Preview: Labor's Outlook

L abor—unions and the broad working class of wage workers—hasn’t had a good year in a very long time. Union membership continues its long, slow decline, as does median family income. But if nothing else, 2014 should be a clarifying year in the life of several legal and organizing struggles that will either advance or retard the progress of labor. The Cold Hard Numbers The labor year begins in early January when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its union-membership numbers. Despite recent high-profile fights over public-sector unionism—teachers and government workers—union density among public employees has stayed remarkably steady, somewhere around 35-36 percent of the public-sector workforce. Private-sector unionism (the iconographic male union members of yore—autoworkers, steelworkers, truckers, coal miners) continues, year by year, to creep lower and lower—last year, density stood at 6.6 percent, probably the lowest since the beginning of the 20 th century. The members of...

Our Passivity Surplus

As recent calamities show, change takes empathy—plus insisting on making yourself heard.

AP Images/A.M. Ahad
AP Images/A.M. Ahad O nce in a while, disparate news events make visible a thematic convergence, something wonderful or disturbing that had been coursing unseen through the culture. Since the mass murder of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the nation’s attention has frequently been riveted by events that call into question what we owe to one another and what we owe to ourselves. Can we, like the inspiring, relentless parents of those dead kids, rouse ourselves to care about our fate? Recently, two terrible yet at least partially hopeful episodes occurred: one in a familiar American city, the other thousands of miles from the U.S. We were horrified to learn of the kidnapping, torture, and sexual assault of three girls (now women) over a ten-year period by Ariel Castro, a middle-aged man seemingly as nondescript as his house in Cleveland. Charles Ramsey, a generous, charismatic neighbor in a down-on-its-heels neighborhood, heard a cry for help and helped kick...