restricted access 12. Dreams, Illusions, and Realities: Conclusions
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— 297 — Michael is using interest from his trust fund to pay for this trip. I am grateful, but also angry at the inequalities in our realities. No matter what I say or do, he can’t understand what it’s like to scrabble for the money for rent and heat and food. Worse, he thinks he does understand. I worked an entire summer once to pay my own way on an Outward Bound trip, he says. I roll my eyes. Big whoop, I say. Working a whole summer for a want, not a need, is not the same. There’s no desperation there. No life or death. No crisis should you fail. If I miss a payment I’ll be chattering in the dark, or worse, asking my family for help. Don’t be so melodramatic, he says. Your family would help. I look at him like he’s from the moon . . . I was raised to be self-sufficient. It is a virtue in our family. A virtue born of necessity, perhaps, but a proudly held virtue just the same. You wouldn’t understand, I say (Latus 2007:79–80). T w e l v e Dreams, Illusions, and Realities Conclusions E . P a u l D u r r e n b e r g e r — 298 — E . P a u l D u r r e n b e r g e r I quote from a memoir of an abused woman, not an anthropological work. But I quote it because it’s a familiar situation to anyone from a working-class background trying to make herself understood to someone from the managerial middle class. In 1994, Rubin wrote: Two decades ago [1973] Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb wrote that one of the most destructive of “the hidden injuries of class” is the stigmatization of working-class status, the disrespect for the men and women who work with their hands, and the belief that it’s nothing more than their own inadequacies that keep them from climbing the class ladder . An analysis that’s as true now as it was then. (40) And it continues to be even more true today as the class divides become more exaggerated. Or, as Michael Zweig (2000:11) puts it, “Class is about the power some people have over the lives of others, and the powerlessness most people experience as a result.” The managerial middle class are the people at least temporarily in positions of command or authority. “Their job is to conceptualize . . . what others must do. The job of the worker, blue or pink collar, is to get it done” (Ehrenreich 1990:133). Ehrenreich continues: “The fact that this is a relationship of domination—and grudging submission—is usually invisible to the middle class but painfully apparent to the working class.” Recent anthropological works ostensibly about issues of class in the United States (Newman 2000, 2008 ; Newman and Chen 2007; Newman et al. 2004; Ortner 2005) do remarkably little to clarify fundamental theoretical , empirical, or methodological issues about class; in fact, they do more to obscure issues than enlighten them because they stay within the terms of reference of US culture that deny and obfuscate the existence of class. Anthropologists who do ethnography like June Nash (2007) and thus see the world from the ground up rather than from the middle down develop a different picture, one that is both ethnographic and global, one that sees each locale in its global political-economic context. Criticism from the formerly colonized and women so decentralized Euro-American white male definitions of the objective world that the promoters of postmodernism reduced all reality to a semiotic world of signs and symbols and dismissed understandings of gender and ethnicity in terms of processes of neoliberal globalization as vulgar determinism (Nash 2007:23). While the champions of postmodernism disparage ethnography, — 299 — D r e a m s , I l l u s i o n s , a n d R e a l i t i e s June Nash argues that the experience of activist collaboration with those we study overcomes the postmodernists’ tendency to question the reality of social problems, provides new insights, and reflects the concerns of people who “are transforming the structures of domination both at home and abroad” (2007:3). Like ground-penetrating radar, the broad comparative and holistic vision of anthropology helps us to see beyond the confusions of the surface to the realities under it. Fried’s (1967...