I read this about three weeks ago (my review here) as it was coming up for the All-Nonfiction Group (which I modertate) and I really needed a reread because although the material is not difficult, it is quite dense with the historical information which leads up to the current crisis. and threat. It’s really quite a brilliant book.
The main theme is stated in the subtitle – “Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic.” In order to address that seriously the author has gone back to the meaning of the word “Republic”” and how Aristotle’s idea apply today. From there he addresses the multitude of ways in which economics have affected the American republic.
The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic
by Ganesh Sitaraman
2017 / 433 pages
read by MacLeod Andrews – 12h 24m
Rating: 9.75 / history-economics
(both read and listened)
The material is organized into three Parts each divided into a few chapters. This follows a fairly thorough Introduction. Part 1, “The Radicalism of The American Constitution,” goes back to the Greeks/Romans and what a Middle-Class Constitution might be as well as how others since, like Machi-avelli, have viewed overall governmental structures, and how all of this applies to the Western world, specifically the United States, today.
Part II, “A Brief History of the Middle-Class Constitution,” deals with the Western world prior to the ratification of the US constitution. This means mostly the founding fathers and their era showing that what happened in America really was a Revolution and not just a War of Independence.
And then Part III, “The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution,” gets involved with more recent US history and how the struggle between the elites and the middle/lower classes. This includes the fight over slavery, and the feudalism of the south, but not much say about women. Sitaraman also covers the Progressive Era, the WWII boom, the Civil Rights era, the flattening of the middle class since 1970 and what’s been going on since, like the Citizen’s United court case The final chapter deals with suggestions for reviving a Middle-Class and a Constitution which supports stability.
Sitaraman covers a lot of territory and the narrative is dense with legal material as well as details of American history dealing with the government, class and economics. This is probably NOT something you learned in college history classes, even at the graduate level. And you can’t breeze through the material in a weekend if you have a life, but I highly recommend it if you’re interested in American history in terms of socio-economic classes and the Constitution, or the way the country is apparently going, why and how it might change.
An extraneous point of sorts, the book doesn’t read like a textbook. It’s hard to outline using the old Topic Sentence/point, point, point method. Sitaraman usually uses an introductory sentence followed by a statement of topic with points following and possibly a summation sentence at the end of each paragraph. The paragraphs lead and flow into each other very logically, This makes for wonderful reading, but it may be a bit harder to “study.” And my solid 9.5 should possibly have been a 10.