by Gabriel Winant
Harvard University Press
Men in hardhats were once the heart of America's working class; now it is women in scrubs. What does this shift portend for our future?
Pittsburgh was once synonymous with steel. But today most of its mills are gone. Like so many places across the United States, a city that was a center of blue-collar manufacturing is now dominated by the service economy--particularly health care, which employs more Americans than any other industry. Gabriel Winant takes us inside the Rust Belt to show how America's cities have weathered new economic realities. In Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, he finds that a new working class has emerged in the wake of deindustrialization.
As steelworkers and their families grew older, they required more health care. Even as the industrial economy contracted sharply, the care economy thrived. Hospitals and nursing homes went on hiring sprees. But many care jobs bear little resemblance to the manufacturing work the city lost. Unlike their blue-collar predecessors, home health aides and hospital staff work unpredictable hours for low pay. And the new working class disproportionately comprises women and people of color.
Today health care workers are on the front lines of our most pressing crises, yet we have been slow to appreciate that they are the face of our twenty-first-century workforce. The Next Shift offers unique insights into how we got here and what could happen next. If health care employees, along with other essential workers, can translate the increasing recognition of their economic value into political power, they may become a major force in the twenty-first century.
"A sophisticated, politically pointed, and beautiful crafted book, The Next Shift chronicles both the erosion of the white male industrial working class and the ascendance of a service sector run by the labor of white women and men and women of color. But unlike most stories of industrial decline, Winant's history bristles with hope for activism for the new world of work that has emerged." -- Eileen Boris, author of Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019
"How and why has the healthcare sector taken over formerly industrial cities? Why are care work jobs so important yet so undervalued? In one of the most important works of labor, economic, and policy history to appear in years, Gabriel Winant compellingly answers these questions. This is an essential book for understanding the healthcare system, its weaknesses, and the policies necessary to create a system that is equitable for both workers and patients." -- Thomas J. Sugrue, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
"Beautifully written, extensively researched, and sharply argued, The Next Shift offers a new way to think about the transformations often grouped together under the rubric of 'neoliberalism.' Winant sees deindustrialization not simply as a story of decline, but a story of the rise of a new kind of working class." -- Kimberly Phillips-Fein, author of Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics
"A thorough understanding of the political economy of the post-war United States inflected through the lenses of race, gender and class. It is a masterful book that weaves together two seemingly disparate strands--the demise of heavy industry and the rise of care work--into a single thread that traces the story of a broken society." -- Ryne Clos "Spectrum Culture"
About the Author:
Gabriel Winant is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. His writing about work, inequality, and capitalism in modern America has appeared in The Nation, the New Republic, Dissent, and n+1.