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Common GoodsEconomy, Ecology, and Political Theology$
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Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre, Catherine Keller, and Elias Ortega-Aponte

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823268436

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823268436.001.0001

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date: 22 May 2019

The Myth of the Middle

The Myth of the Middle

Common Sense, Good Sense, and Rethinking the “Common Good” in Contemporary U.S. Society

Chapter:
(p.191) The Myth of the Middle
Source:
Common Goods
Author(s):

Charon Hribar

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823268436.003.0010

Although the reality of economic inequality in the United States continues to increase, the endurance of the myth of the American Dream persists. In this essay, I propose that the common good promoted in U.S. society is an unexamined aspiration for a strong middle class and an unsubstantiated principle of social mobility that masks our recognition of an inherent contradiction of advanced global capitalism—that wealth is created through growing impoverishment. I draw on Antonio Gramsci's notion of common sense to analyze the concept “middle class” as a hegemonic apparatus used to align a majority of people in the United States with a “politics of aspiration” while overlooking the failure of our economic system to ensure people’s basic economic human rights. I then engage Johannes Baptist Metz’s criticism of middle-class religion and H. Richard Niebuhr’s critique of capitalism to explore how a revolutionary Christian tradition can help challenge the fundamental social relationships that produce poverty in the midst of plenty. Finally, with a call from the grassroots to Put People First, I examine how developing a critical consciousness on the ground can begin to disrupt a worldview of American exceptionalism that masks the contradictions of capitalism and helps preserve the hegemonic power of the ruling elites.

Keywords:   American assumption, common sense, good sense, hegemony, philosophy of praxis

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