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Barbara and John Ehrenreich: The Real Story Behind the Crash and Burn of America's Managerial Class

How the rise and fall of the professional-managerial class has impacted the last hundred years.

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On the other hand, the PMC has at times been a “liberal” force, defending the values of scholarship and human service in the face of the relentless pursuit of profit. In this respect, its role in the last century bears some analogy to the role of monasteries in medieval Europe, which kept literacy and at least some form of inquiry alive while the barbarians raged outside.

As we face the deepening ruin brought on by neoliberal aggression, the question may be: Who, among the survivors, will uphold those values today? And, more profoundly, is there any way to salvage the dream of reason—or at least the idea of a society in which reasonableness can occasionally prevail—from the accretion of elitism it acquired from the PMC?

Any renewal of oppositional spirit among the Professional-Managerial Class, or what remains of it, needs to start from an awareness that what has happened to the professional middle class has long since happened to the blue collar working class. The debt-ridden unemployed and underemployed college graduates, the revenue-starved teachers, the overworked and underpaid service professionals, even the occasional whistle-blowing scientist or engineer—all face the same kind of situation that confronted skilled craft-workers in the early 20th century and all American industrial workers in the late 20th century.

In the coming years, we expect to see the remnants of the PMC increasingly making common cause with the remnants of the traditional working class for, at a minimum, representation in the political process. This is the project that the Occupy movement initiated and spread, for a time anyway, worldwide.

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Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harpers, and the Progressive, she is a contributing writer to Time magazine. She lives in Florida.
John Ehrenreich is professor of psychology at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury. He wrote The Humanitarian Companion: A Guide for International Aid, Development, and Human Rights Workers.
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