A recent article by Claude Fischer for the Boston Review tackles the connections between American individualism, class consciousness, social structures, and political power by asking why we receive fewer days of paid vacation than Europeans. Fischer provides a good summary of the reasons that could be used either to introduce or to summarize a number of topics in an introductory sociology course. In part, he writes:
The answer comes in two general forms: one, Americans do not want such programs and perks because we do not want the kind of government that would legislate them. Two, Americans want them but cannot get them.
The they-don’t-want-it and they-can’t-get-it views are not irreconcilable. In great measure, what people can imagine as possible, normal, or right depends on what they already have. Some of us can recall when the proposal to create Medicare was widely assailed as socialized medicine. Now few Americans can imagine a country in which the elderly go without taxpayer-provided health care. But the structural impediments to working-class action can then become impediments to working-class consciousness itself—which, in turn, makes action less likely. A tight circle of American exceptionalism.
Via: Made in America