Social Class As Racialized Political Experience

Jamila Michener 1
  • 1 Department of Government, White Hall, USA
Jamila Michener
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  • Department of Government, White Hall, Cornell University, 3Ithaca, NY 14853-7901, USA
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Common markers of social class include income, wealth, education and family background. Though these capture staple pedestrian elements of class, they understate something substantial – social class is produced by political experiences. Building on this observation, I argue that social class is constructed and reinforced via political institutions that differentially affect the daily experiences and life trajectories of Americans. Viewing class through this lens (instead of more simply as a function of income or education) enables clarity on two critical features of the American political system: (1) its deeply racialized institutional practices (2) its dual inclusionary/exclusionary governance structures. Most broadly, this essay pushes us beyond a view of class as a set of variables that affect political outcomes and towards inquiry into the ways that political institutions produce class. Ultimately, such a conceptual pivot illuminates additional pathways for transforming economic and political relations in the United States.

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