Book 21 of 52: "The Unmaking of the American Working Class" by Reg Theriault

I’ve been reading a lot of books about the fall of the middle class.  Why?  Well, I suppose because I fit pretty well into the middle class, and if the class is disappearing, I want to make sure that I get squeezed out the top, not the bottom.

Most of the books I’ve been reading are outside looks into the fall of the middle class, presented by the elite authors and with plenty of statistics to back up their claims.  This book, however, is different – since it’s instead authored by a man who’s been in the working class all his life.
Reg Theriault grew up picking fruit (a “fruit tramp”, he terms himself), and then switched to working as a longshoreman – a job he held for several decades.  Instead of overwhelming the reader with statistics, this book is more a series of anecdotes and reflections on his time in the industry.

As I read the book, I felt as though I was sitting at a bar, listening to the man literally tell me these stories over a beer or two.  While they are sometimes loosely related, either to each other or to the larger theme, they do paint an overall picture of a shifting world, a world where mechanization and automation are reducing the need for manpower.

While all of these innovations are great for increasing per-worker productivity, they also mean that fewer workers are needed to reach the maximum level of productivity needed by the industry.  What happens to the other workers, then?

Theriault doesn’t have answers to that question.  But he does note that the times are changing, and that the working class will have to look for new niches if they hope to survive.  And really, they don’t have any other true choice.

Time to read: 2 hours.  Seriously, this one reads like an ambling tale from a gentleman at the bar.

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