Title

Stew of Discontent:“Middle Class” Americans' Economic Populism in the 1990s and Beyond

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2010

DOI

10.1177/016059761003400404

Version

Citation

Publication Title

Humanity & Society

Keywords

Populism, Class consciousness, Social classes, Middle class, United States

Subject Categories

Sociology

Abstract

This article highlights the hidden subtlety of ordinary Americans' economic populist sentiment, a longstanding and politically pivotal form of popular resentment concerning class inequalities. Based on my research in the late 1990s, I describe how economic populist attitudes in the United States can be much more complex than suggested in the relevant literature. I use data from interviews with a small number of “ordinary middle class” Americans to illustrate little known nuances in these attitudes and to highlight how such subtleties are overlooked in prevailing characterizations of public opinion. I suggest that the oversight is the result of the fragmentary nature of the study of U.S. class consciousness. I call for critical reflection on underlying biases that may obstruct a more integrated approach, and I explain how a more holistic perspective on economic populist attitudes may be used to mobilize subordinate class discontent in the United States more effectively.