Cover: The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration, from Harvard University PressCover: The Dignity of Working Men in PAPERBACK

The Dignity of Working Men

Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

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$28.00 • £24.95 • €25.95

ISBN 9780674009929

Publication Date: 10/15/2002


408 pages

5-11/16 x 8-7/8 inches

5 tables

Russell Sage Foundation Books at Harvard University Press


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Was there actually a set of values that could be considered distinctly ‘working class’ in character, that represented a distinctly working-class worldview? One of the most sophisticated recent attempts to answer this question appeared in the recent study The Dignity of Working Men… [Lamont] recognized that asking workers to choose their most important values from a prepared list would essentially force their replies into a predetermined mold that had little to do with their real-world thoughts and feelings. Lamont used instead open-ended and non-directive questions. She interviewed 150 blue-collar workers, black and white, in the United States and in France, and compared them with middle-class people in both countries. Her questions asked workers to describe people who were similar to them and people who were different, people they liked and disliked, and those to whom they felt superior or inferior. Follow-up questions probed why they felt as they did, spontaneously eliciting a complex pattern of moral judgements and values. Both work and family did indeed emerge among the blue-collar workers’ core values. But the real significance lay in how those were perceived.—Andrew Levinson, The Nation

Michèle Lamont’s study of working-class men in the USA and France is…the most interesting contribution to this field for quite some time, and should serve as a benchmark for future scholarly debate… This is a really innovative and challenging book and it needs to be read as widely as possible… The Dignity of Working Men has all the potential to become a classic.—John Solomos, Ethnic and Racial Studies

The Dignity of Working Men is an important entry into examinations of the intersection of class, race, and immigration. [Lamont] gives us new leverage on both some viable antiracist threads of thinking among the white working class and on the complexity and humanism animating how African Americans engage the great divides of race and class. We shall all be discussing this meticulously researched, cogently argued, and provocative book for some years to come.—Lawrence Bobo, Contemporary Sociology

It is hard to imagine a comparative research design as well conceived as the one that frames Michèle Lamont’s book… The book is a model of cross cultural comparative analysis and deserves high praise.—Rick Fantasia, Contemporary Sociology

Many interpreters of current society have posited that class is no longer a useful concept as a basis for identity. This book, based on hundreds of interviews with American and French workers, rejects that analysis… It is fascinating reading, an important contribution to a reexamination of class.—J. Wishnia, Choice

Lamont’s book is a classic in the making. It breaks new ground as a major in-depth study of comparative racism. It will also broaden the horizons of social class studies. The Dignity of Working Men opens up a wider perspective, so that by looking at French racial conflict, American racial conflict looks less fixed, less inevitable. There are alternative patterns, revealing that societies do have room to maneuver.—Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Sociology of Philosophies

Lamont’s richly-textured comparison does more than hold up for view the moral perspectives of working-class men across the racial divide in the United States and France. It poses fresh and rich challenges to research, demonstrates the difference systematic qualitative analysis can make, and points the way to a politics of sensibility and possibility.—Ira I. Katznelson, Columbia University

The Dignity of Working Men is a wonderful book. What is most striking is the richness of the interviews. Lamont’s questions seem really to have touched working men where they live, to have encouraged them to talk about their sense of self, their pride in themselves as workers, their sense of moral order, their aspirations and (occasional) political passions, their families, their beliefs in equality and inequality, their racial attitudes, and much more. By asking black workers what they think of whites as well as what whites think of blacks, and by comparing racial and ethnic cleavages in France and the United States, The Dignity of Working Men adds a vital new dimension to studies of class and race.—Ann Swidler, University of California, Berkeley

The Dignity of Working Men is an outstanding example of comparative ethnography. Through a series of careful and thoughtful interviews, Michèle Lamont reveals the moral standards ordinary workers use in evaluating their fellow citizens. In this engaging book, Lamont also provides an interesting comparison between workers in the United States and France on the criteria used to draw class and racial boundaries.—William Julius Wilson, Harvard University, author of When Work Disappears

Awards & Accolades

  • 2001 Mattei Dogan Award, Society for Comparative Research
  • 2000 C. Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems

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