Joan Williams, Coalitions, and Getting Beyond the Wages of Whiteness and the Wages of Maleness
Professor Williams believes that the interests of the White working class and White men can be aligned with a progressive agenda to transform the workplace to the benefit of all workers and to have the salutary effect of reducing the current negative economic consequences experienced by women. The organizing principle revolves around what Williams presumes to be a shared answer to the question: “Should an employer be able to keep you from doing right by your family?” She believes that “[b]uilding a coalition to enact policies that enable Americans to balance work and family responsibilities should be within the realm of possibility,” but in order to be successful, the coalition must include this “Missing Middle.”
Although a significant portion of the book is about what Williams characterizes as the “Missing Middle,” the book seems directed toward a certain group of progressives: reform-minded elites, many of whom are drawn from the professional-managerial class. Williams exhorts these elites to take the lead to end the class wars. These marching orders reveal that Williams intends the professional-managerial class to be a primary audience for the book’s messages.
I agree with Professor Williams that in order to work together, both groups must put aside egos and hurt feelings. What I am less certain about is how far her blueprint takes us toward developing effective coalitions. It underestimates the powerful psychological forces at work and the investments that have been made in racialized and gendered identity formations—investments that present very serious challenges for persuading the Missing Middle to join forces with progressives to pass legislation necessary to alter the workplace, even if it is in the Missing Middle’s own self-interest.
Robert S. Chang, Joan Williams, Coalitions, and Getting Beyond the Wages of Whiteness and the Wages of Maleness, 34 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 825 (2011).