Academic Work as Factory Work: A Former Blue-Collar Worker’s Observations on Class and Caste in the Academy


  • Kenneth Atkinson



Working-class academic, Working-class culture, social class, caste, factory labor, crossover, deindustrialisation, precarious work, gloabalisation, Detroit, Metro Detroit


What was it like to have come of age after the Glorious Thirty (1945-1975), an era Jack Metzger (2016; 2021a) describes as a time when the working-class bettered their lives? I had the misfortune to have worked in several Metropolitan Detroit factories during the period of decline after the Glorious Thirty. During that time, I witnessed what the journalist George Packer (2013) has called ‘the Unwinding,’ the unraveling of the social contract that has left the working class to their own devices to find success and salvation. In keeping with the tradition in working-class studies of sharing lived experienced of class (Linkon, 2021, pp. 20-31; Strangleman, 2005, pp. 137-51), I highlight my multiple working-class lives to show that academic life is increasingly becoming more like blue-collar labor. Through a discussion of the concepts of class and caste, and the uniqueness of working-class culture, I propose that working-class academic crossovers are essentially ghosts trapped in a liminal limbo in an intellectual version of a contemporary factory that is largely devoid of the benefits of working-class culture.