Book: ‘Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams’

In our nation, there’s almost no discussion about class. We pride ourselves on being a classless society, a meritocracy. I think that’s mostly true, but not fully.

Class issues are evident at work. Here are some examples:

  • What people wear at many offices oozes middle-class (and up) culture. For example, men often wear khakis (a remnant from the British Empire), and, in the summer, wear short-sleeved shirts that tend to be what people wear for golf.
  • Communication style is very much middle-class. There’s a premium to being very indirect, and, at times, passive-aggressive.
  • Employees from different classes almost never socialize together. At my first job out of college, the library staff and secretarial support team nearly always lived on Staten Island. The investment bankers lived in Manhattan or Connecticut. The two groups worked together, but never hung out together. And, I was struck by how poorly some of the bankers treated the support staff.

I write this because I recently read Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams. It got rave reviews on Amazon. I enjoyed reading it.

The author writes about his own life, how he went to Columbia and how what he encountered there was a different world from his own (his father was bricklayer). The author also interviewed many others from blue-collar families and who are now in white-collar jobs.

There is some, but not total, overlap between my immigrant background and the family culture about which the author writes. But, many entrepreneurs with whom I work come from blue-collar families, and I do see a general pattern: stamina, the desire for an open culture wherein people speak their mind, grit.

It’s a good book and worth reading.

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