The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class - David R. Roediger

The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class - David R. Roediger

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An original study of the formative years of working-class racism in the United States.

Combining classical Marxism, psychoanalysis, and the new labor history pioneered by E. P. Thompson and Herbert Gutman, David Roediger’s widely acclaimed book provides an original study of the formative years of working-class racism in the United States. This, he argues, cannot be explained simply with reference to economic advantage; rather, white working-class racism is underpinned by a complex series of psychological and ideological mechanisms that reinforce racial stereotypes, and thus help to forge the identities of white workers in opposition to Blacks.

In a new preface, Roediger reflects on the reception, influence, and critical response to The Wages of Whiteness, while Kathleen Cleaver’s insightful introduction hails the importance of a work that has become a classic.


“At last an American labor historian realizes that white workers have a racial identity that matters as race matters to those who are not white.”

“Far and away the best treatment of white working-class racial attitudes in the nineteenth century that I have seen.”

“An extremely important and insightful book.”

“A timely and important intervention in the current debates over ‘race’ and ethnicity. Roediger has opened up the question of white identity.”

“A brilliant account of how white workers in antebellum America constructed a social identity fundamentally premised on their ‘whiteness.’”


“The Celestine Prophecy of whiteness studies.”

“Delivers powerful insights into the collective psyche of the U.S. working class. Striking.”

“An important contribution to our understanding of what has often been called ‘American exceptionalism.’ Sensitive and detailed handling of a wide range of original sources.”

“Brilliant. Remarkable for its subtlety, its penetrating and honest analysis.”

“Scholarly and thoroughly documented, The Wages of Whiteness is nonetheless a highly readable, compact and compelling narrative. A provocative illumination of the long and tortuous history of racism in the US.”

“Casts a new light on a broad social, cultural and political landscape.”

“An indispensable addition to our knowledge of American working class formation.”

“Interesting and useful. Reconstructs how labor in America made racism part of its very being.”

“A brilliant, authoritative, carefully researched study of major importance.”

“A real contribution to the study of the dynamic relationship that exists between the variables of race and class. A very engaging and compelling book. Wages of Whiteness will have a broad appeal to students and researchers across a wide array of disciplines.”

“A welcome challenge to the old and new mythmakers.”

“A significant contribution, particularly necessary for those who want to see the struggle for labor unity across racial lines move forward.”

“Roediger’s lasting contribution ensures that the history of race and class can no longer be written from the perspective of romantic working class heroes, nor can it be written in a spirit of self-righteous ‘anger.’”

“Subtle, serious, commands our attention.”

“Roediger’s excellent book is must reading for those interested in American working-class formation.”

“In The Wages of Whiteness David Roediger takes a courageous look at the development of white working-class racism and attempts to unravel its complex skein of economic, cultural, and psycho-political issues.”

“Of great originality and yet firmly grounded in a rich and diverse scholarship. There is no denying the enormous achievement of this book. Henceforth there will be no evading the question of racism in our contemplation of working-class formation in America.”

“Offers a compelling understanding of working-class racism. A rich and detailed history that traces notions of whiteness from the early seventeenth century to the late nineteenth.”

“Much has been written about the sources of racism and the wellsprings of racial conflict but few historians have shown David Roediger’s sensitivity to the process by which race figured in defining the very nature of American society. The author’s most important contribution is to elucidate how racial identity was critical to the formation of the working class during the nineteenth century. Roediger’s central argument is most compelling.”

“David Roediger’s fascinating and vital study will satisfy even the most jaded intellectual palate and deserves the widest circulation.”

“The book speaks so clearly to what historians know about the American working class, but with enormous originality. Broadly accessible to a wide audience, it connects the histories of slave labor and free labor thus providing a more profound understanding of American working class formation. Theoretically sophisticated, pulling together subtle but significant connections among race, class and gender. Blindingly revealing and of lasting scholarly value.”

Author: David Roediger
Publisher: Verso
ISBN: 9781844671458
Published: 07/2007
Format: Paperback
Page count: 195