Jackson Lears

Jackson Lears is editor of Raritan and author, most recently, of Rebirth of a Nation: the Making of Modern America, 1877-1920.

Recent Articles

Hard Times Revisited

Two new books show how the gap between the rich and the poor shaped the culture of the 1930s.

Cotton picker's child listening to an organizer at strike meeting to raise wages from 75 cents to 90 cents per hundred pounds, 1938. (Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress)
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon W.W. Norton, 536 pages, $35.00 Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein, W.W. Norton, 598 pages, $29.95 In contemporary American public life, the mere mention of poverty is considered bad form. Consider some recent attempts to bring up the subject. In 2003, the University of North Carolina assigned Nickel and Dimed , Barbara Ehrenreich's account of her six months trying to squeeze by on low-wage jobs, to its incoming freshmen for summer reading. University administrators believed the book would be an uncontroversial choice; instead it provoked howls of protest from conservative student groups and right-wing talk-show hosts. In 2008, John Edwards' effort to build a presidential campaign around a commitment to ending poverty proved a nonstarter; many voters apparently thought that he was "just too angry." And even now, as job losses and foreclosures multiply, public discussion of the crisis...