The Magazine

Working Man Blues

Eric Hoffer: longshoreman, writer, prophet.

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By FRED SIEGEL
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Hoffer was the first to anticipate the coming of the top-bottom coalition: “An interesting peculiarity of present-day dissenting intellectuals,” he noted, “is their lack of animus towards the rich. .  .  . I doubt whether anyone had foreseen that affluence would radicalize the upper rich and the lowest poor and nudge them toward an alliance against those in the middle. What we have of revolution just now is financed largely by the rich.”

The plight of African Americans became, as he recognized, the means by which the masses, stigmatized as hopelessly racist, could be displaced from the center of American life. Hoffer saw the underlying logic of the question that has emerged as we approach the 2012 election: Does the voice of the middle-class black and white still define our polity or culture?

Fred Siegel, scholar in residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.