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Again, how are you defining "working class"--the working poor or the middle class as a whole? If "working class" refers to the American middle class as opposed to the American upper class rooted in great fortunes and inherited wealth, then historically the middle class made great strides during the years following World War II.
Thanks to the GI Bill, college education, vocational training, and home ownership became available to millions of returning veterans. Factories that had been re-tooled for war were re-tooled again to produce the multitude of consumer goods the civilian population needed or just wanted to buy after the austerity of the war years. The demand created more jobs which created more demand, and the middle class thrived. The post-war baby boom contributed a great deal to the economy, again creating a demand for goods and services that created jobs and benefited the middle class.
It was a time in the country when middle class Americans produced products and purchased them at home, constructed great highway systems and traveled on them in cars made in Detroit. Growth led to more growth, and the middle class prospered in ways that we have not seen since. The distribution of income and the ownership of private property in the American middle class was far different then than it is now. The decline of the middle class in America in terms of economic power and opportunities is very real, and the statistics are shocking and very disturbing.
To pick up on a point made in #2, I am probably one of those that would argue that the working class have never held significant power. Marxists in particular would argue that the working class occupy the lowest rung of the ladder of society, and thus are subject to the power of the middle and upper class that lie above them. They would also point to the number of ways in which working class people have less life chances than other classes, pointing towards a lack of power.
I tend to agree with post number 2, in today's world and economy it seems that the working class is shrinking. In our area of the country there are very few new jobs and more and more people are relying on public assistance to survive. My fear is that people become dependent on the assistance and give up on finding work and getting off public assistance.
An interesting point of discussion is with regard to education and its role or impact on the working class. As blue collar factory jobs became more prominent, public education became clearing house for producing factory workers. It seems now, that the course of most public education is to try and channel students into college.
Often times the term Working Class is synonymous with Middle Class. In othr contexts, it means blue collar, or factory labor. Workers gained more power as the Progressive reforms of President Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and later FDR gave Unions a more legitimate foothold in American life and eventually law.
Organized unions became and still are (though to a lesser extent) a political force, and this solidified the position of the working class until about the early 1970s. Many argue the quality of life enjoyed by these Americans has been declining ever since.
Can you be a bit more specific as to time and place on this? After all, most people would argue that the working class has been on the decline recently. Also, what exactly do you mean by "rise?" Are you talking about a rise in numbers or in power?
I would say that the numbers of the working class rose with the Industrial Revolution. That revolution increased the number of people employed by others in factories. These were people who were relatively unskiled as opposed to artisans such as those who had been plentiful before industrialization.
As far as a rise in power for the working class, it's less obvious. Some would argue it never happened. Others might say it happened in the US in the late 1800s as unions became more significant. Others might say it only happened during the Progressive Era when more worker protection regulations were passed.
Anyway, some clarification as to what you are asking about might yield better answers.
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