The Puritan (detail), by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, c. 1883. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Jacob Ruppert, 1939.
One of America’s most enduring myths involves the fledging country’s supposed fortitude in refusing to import the class structures of its forebears. But, historian Steve Fraser says in the latest episode of The World in Time, “right now, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sustain that delusion.” Or, as he puts it at the beginning of his book Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion, “Class is the secret of the American experience, its past, present, and likely future. It is a secret known to all, but a source of public embarrassment to acknowledge. It lives on all the surfaces of daily life, yet is driven underground every time its naked self offends cherished illusions about how we deal with each other.”
Lewis H. Lapham talks with Steve Fraser, author of Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion.
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