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Working In These Times

Monday, Sep 7, 2009, 8:00 am

A Radical Economist Examines His Own Working-Class Roots

BY Seth Sandronsky

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For decades, Michael Yates has been challenging and critiquing capitalism in books, articles and classrooms. But Yates--radical political economist, associate editor of The Monthly Review and author of Why Unions Matter and Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy, among other books--has never delved into the politics of his own past.

Until, that is, Yates wrote In and Out of the Working Class (Arbeiter Ring Publishing), published earlier this year. In this new book, Yates, 63, writes in the tradition of Douglas Dowd, a radical political economist whose Blues for America: a Critique, a Lament, and Some Memories, spans most of the 20th century. Yates' arc is the post-W.W.II era: his youth, adolescence and adulthood.

In fiction, non-fiction and "creative non-fiction," Yates writes of laboring people such as himself immersed in everyday life, in households, schools and workplaces. Two pieces of fiction book-end the volume, poignantly illustrating the risk-taking character of working-class life, where the wagering of resources offers a measure of relief. But it is always back to work, in all its cold realities.

For the full book review at, click here.

Seth Sandronsky is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Race and Class, Review of Radical Political Economics, Sacramento News & Review and Z Magazine, among other publications. He lives and writes in Sacramento, Calif., and can be reached at

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