For today’s podcast, I interview Jarod Roll of the University of Mississippi about his new book Poor Man’s Fortune: White Working Class Conservatism in American Metal Mining, 1850-1950. This might sound like a classic narrow monograph, but it has widespread implications on the present. Roll explores lead and zinc miners in the tri-state Oklahoma/Missouri/Kansas area and why they absolutely opposed unionization, even though they were dealing with horrendous health and safety problems from their work. It’s a book and a conversation about white native-born men identifying with capitalism and white masculine individualism that undermines their willingness to act collectively.
Given all the rhetoric on the Bernie left that what white working class men actually want is socialism, which is has been pretty well proven false now, what Roll shows is that this has really never been true and that white native born men may have always had pretty much the same politics as the problem we face today. And rather than ask “why don’t these people vote for their own interest,” we’d be better off asking how these people actually perceive their interests and what we can then learn from that. We address this question specifically in the podcast. Enjoy!