A well-known radical political economist, Michael D. Yates spent decades teaching and analyzing capitalism. But what do the theories that informed his scholarship have to say about the rest of his life experience? What does it mean to be born into the working class? What happens when, as Yates did, you leave it? This book explores the complexities of identity under capitalism — youth, work, alienation, risk and redemption — telling tales of gambling and Caesar Chavez along the way.

Part of our Literary Collection.

Yates trespasses freely between fiction and nonfiction to reveal the large desires and limited choices of coming of age in the working class. An important contribution to the new working-class studies.

Janet Zandy, Professor of Language and Literature, Rochester Institute of Technology

Should be required reading for all those who hope to combine teaching with activism in higher education. The author’s personal journey illuminates the political challenges and career dilemmas facing younger progressives today, who are searching for ways to make opposition to capitalism more than a private creed.

Steve Early, Labor Journalist and Former Organizer

Michael Yates has brought back lives forgotten: the blue collar memories never made into Hollywood films, but vivid for their reality, seen through the eyes of the youngster finding himself, discovering his world and the world beyond.

Paul Buhle, Senior Lecturer, Historyand American Civilization, Brown University

Subject Social Science/Essays/Personal Memoirs
Published April 2009
Price $19.95 CDN
Pages 170 pp (Paper)
Dimensions 5.5″ × 8.5″ × 0.75″
ISBN-10 1-894037-35-9
ISBN-13 978-1894037-35-8

Related Titles


  • Dennis Pilon, in Socialist Studies: the Journal of the Society for Socialist Studies writes:

    In and Out of the Working Class joins a growing field of what might be dubbed ‘working class studies,’ an academic subgenre that explicitly privileges studying class as an experience rather than a position in a class structure or set of class relations. But it doesn’t quite fit in because Yates refuses to accept such a dichotomy. Any number of contributions from this book would make a great addition to a class reading list, or just good reading for the general public or activist interested in the working class.

  • Elly Leary, in Monthly Review writes:

    The collection lays bare all the obvious—and not so obvious—ways our system works to undermine the working class, collectively and individually. Yates explores the interlocking blocks of capitalist rule: racism, patriarchy, anti-communism, ingrained worthlessness. Sometimes they present themselves boldly but, for the most part, they emerge in real life more subtly, and rife with contradictions.

  • Joshua DeVries, in Labor Notes writes:

    The beauty is that Yates’ historical writing about his own life covers events that he was part of, written so that as a reader, I felt I was there. The fictional accounts that he includes throughout the book are so believable that I had to go back through later to remind myself which parts he lived and which ones he created. The fiction is not created out of whole cloth but is permeated with characters and events present in his life.

  • Steve Early, in State of Nature writes:

    Yates’ insightful new collection of autobiographical essays and short fiction, In and Out of the Working Class, describes how he made his own way back to the labor movement. That journey toward home began after he achieved, with some ambivalence, advanced degrees and upward mobility that many others have used to leave the world of blue-collar work far behind them.

  • Seth Sandronsky, in In These Times writes:

    [Yates] moves up and out, but not away, from the consciousness of people who labor for a living. Crucially, In and Out of the Working Class never sugarcoats the working class, even as Yates highlights a social and economic system that spawns their alienation and exploitation. This is a major theme of his book, a recurrent problem that Yates deals with by supporting and forming bonds of solidarity with labor unions.

  • Louis Proyect, in Swans writes:

    It should be said … that Michael Yates’s collection is graced by some of the finest writing that you are likely to encounter from someone whose background is primarily in political and economic analysis. It is distinguished by his unique, plain-spoken voice shaped by growing up in a working class milieu, where pretensions of one sort or another were likely to earn you a bloody nose, as well as an obvious understanding of how to sustain the reader’s attention.

About the Author

Michael D. Yates is a writer, editor, and educator. Among his books are Cheap Motels and a Hotplate: an Economist’s Travelogue (Monthly Review Press, 2007), Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (Monthly Review Press, 2002), Why Unions Matter (Monthly Review Press, 1998), Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs (Monthly Review Press, 1994), and Power on the Job (South End Press, 1994). He has also published more than 150 articles and reviews in a wide variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers. His works have been translated into seventeen languages. He is currently Associate Editor of Monthly Review magazine. He taught economics and labor relations at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He won the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984. He currently teaches courses for workers at the University of Indiana, Cornell University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Yates also worked in the Research Office of the United Farm Workers Union and has served as a labor arbitrator with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation. Yates grew up in Ford City, Pennsylvania. He is married to Karen Korenoski of Dunlo, Pennsylvania. They have four adult children.