Fear of Falling:The Inner Life of the Middle Class


A brilliant and insightful work that examines the insecurities of the middle class in an attempt to explain its turn to the right during the past two decades, Fear of Falling traces the myths about the middle class to their roots in the ambitions and anxieties that torment the group and that have led to its retreat from a responsible leadership role.

Author Biography: Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of numerous books, including The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Fight ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (67) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $44.95   
  • Used (64) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

1990 Trade paperback New. No dust jacket as issued. Some tanning to edges. Glued binding. 304 p. Audience: General/trade.

Ships from: Orlando, FL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Sending request ...


A brilliant and insightful work that examines the insecurities of the middle class in an attempt to explain its turn to the right during the past two decades, Fear of Falling traces the myths about the middle class to their roots in the ambitions and anxieties that torment the group and that have led to its retreat from a responsible leadership role.

Author Biography: Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of numerous books, including The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Fight from Commitment. Social critic, essayist, and journalist, Ehrenreich has written for most of the major magazines and newspapers in the United States.

THis provocative study challenges the middle class to become the intellectual and moral conscience of America.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ehrenreich charges that the U.S. middle class especially professionals has retreated from liberalism to a meaner, more selfish outlook. Within this shift, she claims, the New Right successfully waged a spurious, sloganeering campaign asserting that liberalism represents the interests of a narrow elite. In an analysis that should be a starting point for future debate, Ehrenreich, author of six books and columnist for Mother Jones and Ms. , exposes many myths and shibboleths, among them the media's ``discovery'' of an alleged general rightward drift, the supposed hedonism of yuppies and the notion that most hardhats are conservatives. Faulting liberals' ``shameful silence'' on Reagan's economic and social policies, she urges the middle class to join America's working-class majority in an effort to redistribute wealth and power downward to those who need it most. Aug.
Library Journal
The ``central character'' in this breezy foray into popular sociology is the ``professional middle class,'' a loosely defined group the author castigates as elitist, self-absorbed, and selfish. Other players include the lower and working classes, the New Class the liberal wing of the middle class, and yuppies, who are passionately denounced and, oddly, spoken of only in the past tense. Ehrenreich, an active socialist and author of The Hearts of Men LJ 7/83 and For Her Own Good LJ 8/78, concludes that the middle class needs to become more caring and inclusive ``welcoming everyone, until there remains no other class''. An interesting but ephemeral book.-- Kenneth F. Kister, Poynter Inst. for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060973339
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/26/1990
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 292
  • Product dimensions: 5.27 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of fourteen books, including This Land Is Their Land and the New York Times bestsellers Bait and Switch and Fear of Falling. A frequent contributor to Harper’s and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time magazine.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Affluence, Dread,
and the Discovery of

The "discovery" of poverty at the beginning of the 1960s was something like the "discovery" of America almost five hundred years earlier. In the case of each of these exotic terrains, plenty of people were on the site before the discoverers ever arrived. The fact that they had to be found reveals less about them than it does about the delusions that guided their discoverers. Columbus's discovery, for example, tells us something about the vantage point of fifteenth-century Europeans: Believing that the world was small and conveniently arranged for commerce in spice and gold, they misjudged the size of the earth by at least two continents and an ocean.

So, too, the discovery of poverty tells us something about the peculiarly limited vision of middle-class Americans at the middle of the twentieth century. Living in what they took to be the final stage of material affluence--defined by cars, television, and backyard barbecue pits-they believed that this was America. Looking out through their picture windows, they saw only an endless suburb, with no horizon, no frontier, in sight. They believed, almost, that America had stepped outside of history, and that the only changes to come would be the Predictable improvements brought by technological progress: automation, space travel, a cure for cancer, more fidelitous hifi equipment.

From this vantage point the jagged edges of inequality seemed to have disappeared, smoothed out by the affluence that had come to encase American society like middle-aged girth. There were no distinct social classes-only one vast middle class with no known boundaries. As VancePackard, one of the few dissenters from the dogma of American classlessness, wryly reported in 1959:

A number of influential voices have been advising us that whatever social classes we ever had are now indeed withering away . . . Some months ago, a national periodical proclaimed that the United States had recently achieved the 11 most truly classless society in history." A few weeks later, a publisher hailed the disappearance of the class system as "the biggest news of our era."

Unfortunately, even Packard quickly turned from class, with its implications of persistent injustice, to the more entertaining subject of status-as expressed, for example, by one's sofa:

The lower-class people preferred a sofa with tassels hanging from the arms and fringe around the bottom. The high-status people preferred a sofa with simple, severe, right-angled lines.

Yet, despite the intricate hierarchy of tastes documented by Packard and others, there was a general sense that America had finally been homogenized into a level mass. Blue-collar workers were reported to be buying houses in Levittown and sending their children to college; union leaders, as C. Wright Mills had shown, were becoming gray-flanneled executives like their corporate antagonists. "Negroes" were on the march, of course, but only for the apparently unobjectionable goal of sitting down at the same lunch counters and consuming the same good things available to white Americans. Wherever one looked, America seemed to have risen above the hurts and injustices that kept less-favored nations febrile and restless. Nothing much would change because no important social group had a stake in making change. They were all happily joining the universal middle class.

Thw Problen of Problemlessness

If this was the best of times, there was still, inevitably, a flaw. Popular wisdom held that any utopia was bound to be disappointing because "there would be nothing to do," no challenges and no excitement. As evidence, people liked to cite the high suicide rate of the Swedes, who were supposedly enervated by their overprotective welfare state. Now it was as if America had also stumbled into utopia only to confront the ultimate human problem--problemlessness--and with it, the threat of a wasting ennui. "What can we write about?" a college newspaper editor demanded querulously in 1957. "All the problems are solved. All that's left are problems of technical adjustments."

America's best-known--intellectuals-who were themselves, almost to a man, members of the professional middle class--agreed. "The fundamental political problems of the industrial revolution have been solved," pronounced Seymour Martin Lipset in 1960. There was nothing to do, and certainly nothing worth doing with enthusiasm. After surveying the American scene in 1955, David Riesman and Nathan Glazer taxed their minds to discover an issue that might engage the reformminded. "One could raise the floor under wages," they considered briefly, or "press for socialized medicine," but most people, they concluded, were too comfortable to care. "To be sure," they mused, "there are enclaves where the underprivileged still can be found, as in the Southern Alleghenies or the rural Deep South." But this problem of "underprivilege" was so marginal, so geographically isolated, that it would hardly take a full day's work. "There are still pools of poverty to be mopped up," Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., noted, but then we would be right back to the more vexing problems posed by "an economy of abundance."

It was the "end of ideology," Daniel Bell announced in 1960, and if no one missed it, this was because no one, perhaps including Bell, seemed to remember what ideology was. Searching for a definition, he kept falling back on the hot word passion: "A total ideology is ... a set of beliefs infused with passion.... What gives ideology its force is its passion." But the waning of passion was hardly worth mourning, for passionate beliefs about society could flower, apparently, only in the harsh ground of inequality, in circumstances where social position was scripted from birth. In "modern" society, occupation and hence status were determined by "technical skill," a purely neutral attribute that anyone could pick up along the way. In this situation, Bell asked rhetorically, "What then is the meaning of class?" Not much, the reader, numbed by ideology's slow death in the author's hands, would have to agree. If there were no deep injustices and only an occasional matter for "technical adjustment," there were surely no inequalities worth getting passionate about.

Fear of Falling. Copyright © by Barbara Ehrenreich. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)