Gospel of Wealth, Gospel of Work: Counterhegemony in the U.S. Working Class



ABSTRACT  In this article, we marshal qualitative and quantitative evidence for a distinctive U.S. working-class perspective that criticizes and dissents from the society's consumerist orthodoxy. On the basis of ethnographic and archival research in white central New York and eastern Pennsylvania, Doukas suggested that the frugal, work-centered ideology of historical U.S. working classes—the “gospel of work”—persisted as counterhegemonic in today's “gospel of wealth” consumerism. Durrenberger quantitatively tested for “gospel of work” orientations and found confirmation among predominantly white central Pennsylvanian labor unionists. We argue that the combination of methods warrants a more confident generalization and that the “wage of whiteness” needs to be assessed in regional and historic context. We conclude that “gospel of work” values are widely held despite a century-long corporate-sponsored campaign to promote consumerism and caution against assuming consumerist hegemony in the United States.