Moralizing about the white working class 'problem' in Appalachia and beyond

Appalachian Studies 2 (25):205-221 (2019)
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Since the global financial meltdown in 2008, moralizing stereo- types of white working-class citizens have proliferated across the United States, the United Kingdom, Australasia, and Europe. Both conservatives and liberals use concepts such as the Appa- lachian hillbilly, the council estate-dwelling chav, and the outer- suburban bogan to allege white working-class citizens’ failure to adapt to the demands of the globalizing political economy. As recent commentators on the Appalachia “problem” note, such moralizing obscures more than it explains, and does so in the service of economic privilege and political power. Comparative examination of the actors and actions behind the erosion of citizenship as a political category in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia helps to link contemporary moralizing about the white working class to reaction against the democratic excess that working-class movements directly and indirectly provoked in the mid-twentieth century. Today in Appalachia and beyond, conservative and liberal moralizing about the white working-class “problem” undermines democrats’ capacity to recognize and respond to these efforts to displace citizenship as a political category with the moral category of the individual.

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Andy Scerri
Virginia Tech


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