[Marxism] Michael Yates's In and Out of the Working Class

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 19 12:18:05 MDT 2009

Michael Yates's In and Out of the Working Class
by Louis Proyect

Book Review

Yates, Michael: In and Out of the Working Class, Arbeiter Ring 
Publishing Winnipeg, 2009, ISBN 978-1-894037-35-8, 217 pages.

(Swans - October 19, 2009)   In the course of reading Michael Yates's 
collection of essays In and Out of the Working Class, it dawned on me 
that I prefer reading memoirs to novels in the same way that I generally 
prefer documentary to fiction films. If the essence of literature, as 
Henry James once pointed out, is character, then you are forced to stick 
with the truth. The explanation for this is socioeconomic and 
historical. Now that we have reached the end of the tether for American 
imperialism, which was correctly likened to Nero's Rome in Michael 
Moore's Capitalism: a Love Story, Hollywood and mainstream publishing 
have a vested interest in escapist fare that takes the minds of the 
citizenry off their real problems. Plots and characters become more and 
more removed from the reality we face, and hence less interesting.

It should be mentioned that while four pieces are labeled fiction, they 
are very closely related in subject matter and perspective to those 
labeled nonfiction -- namely the conflicted lives of working people from 
the vantage point of the author, a lifelong academic who emerged -- or 
escaped -- from their world. Michael Yates's writing is interesting in 
the same way that the literature of the 1930s remains interesting. 
Despite the fact that American society is made up in its vast majority 
by people who sell their labor power -- to use a bit of the Marxist 
lexicon -- they are almost invisible today. Like African-American Ralph 
Ellison's Invisible Man, a novel about a black man's search for identity 
in racist America, the worker is of little interest to the professional 
writer, except perhaps as an object of ridicule as in television shows 
like The King of Queens.

read full review: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/lproy56.html

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