Related Readings from Somebodies and Nobodies
If you are interested in reading books about rank, rankism, and other related topics, there is a wealth to choose from. This list comes from Robert Fuller’s book Somebodies and Nobodies: Overcoming the Abuse of Rank.
Les Misérables, Victor Hugo (1862). Jean Valjean was a nobody who became a somebody who became a nobody who became immortal.
Diary of a Nobody, George & Weedon Grossmith (1888). These brothers may have invented the somebody-nobody distinction-and, in so doing, turned themselves from nobodies into somebodies.
Master and Man, Leo Tolstoy (1895). A nobleman experiences the equality of human dignity as he makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss (1950). Yertle, the Turtle King, loses the support of his terrapin tower.
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (1952). The kind of recognition that nourishes is recognition of our individuality, not recognition as a member of an identity group, be it racial or ideological.
The Death of Napoleon, Simon Leys (1986). A fable that explores the nobody within somebodies and the somebody within nobodies.
Somebodies and Nobodies
The Phenomenology of Mind, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), or Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, Alexandre Kojeve (Paperback, 1980). The dialectic between master and slave-to which all subsequent analyses of the politics of recognition are indebted.
The Outsider, Colin Wilson (1956). Many of the outsiders in this book were nobodies who forced the world to beat a path to their doors. A later age dubbed them, collectively, the counterculture.
The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman (1959), and Stigma: Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity (Paperback 1986). Public personas are carapaces to protect against insult; energy spent warding off indignity is energy unavailable to getting the job done; the goal of the stigmatized person is the respect and regard he or she would receive but for the stigma.
The Other America, Michael Harrington (1962). Classic account of America’s working poor.
The Hidden Injuries of Class, Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb (1972; 1993). The ins and outs of Nobodyland.
The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker (1973). Disenthralling ourselves from the “spell cast by persons.”
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, Paul Fussell (1983). Delineates nine rungs on the ladder of class (social rank).
Choosing the Right Pond: Human Behavior and the Quest for Status, Robert H. Frank (1985). Why do we feel driven to achieve high rank in the social hierarchies we belong to?
The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life, Kenneth J. Gergen (1991). The building blocks of a post-modern identity, in words and images.
The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us, Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook (1995). The warping of public life by the domination of a few big winners and the existence of many losers.
Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celebrity and American Politics, Gail Collins (1998). Gossip, by dispelling the somebody mystique, changes the balance of power between somebodies and nobodies.
Respect: An Exploration, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (1999). Respect is a many-splendored way to create symmetry, empathy, and connection.
The Paradox of Success: When Winning at Work Means Losing at Life: A Book of Renewal for Leaders, John O’Neil (paperback 2000). A guidebook for and to successful souls.
In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, Amin Maalouf (2001). Identity is often formed in relation to groups we fear or resent. Humiliation creates “identities that kill.”
At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, Philip Dray (2002). Only lynching and torture top slavery in rankism’s chamber of horrors.
Snobbery: The American Version, Joseph Epstein (2002). The essence of snobbery is arranging to make yourself feel superior at the expense of other people.
Women’s Inhumanity to Woman, Phyllis Chesler (2002). Overcoming sexism does not mean we have overcome rankism.
Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate, Jean-Paul Sartre (1948). Excavating the roots of racial prejudice and xenophobia.
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1949). The beginning of the end of modern sexism. “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”
The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan (1963). Triggered the modern women’s movement by demystifying sex roles.
The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone (1970). Patriarchy and the gender-based class system.
Imperial Middle: Why Americans Can’t Think Straight About Class, Benjamin DeMott (1990). Demolishes the myth that America is a classless society.
Philosophical Arguments, Charles Taylor (1995), and Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition, Charles Taylor, K. Anthony Appiah, Jürgen Habermas, Steven Rockefeller, Michael Walzer, and Susan Wolf; Ed. by Amy Gutmann (1994). The politics of recognition and equal dignity made as clear (and compelling) as Euclid made geometry.
The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution, Michael Lind (1995). The emergence of a multiracial middle class American majority heralds a post-identity group politics.
Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race, Amy Gutmann and Kwame Anthony Appiah (1996). To what extent is race trumped by rank?
The Futures of Women: Scenarios for the 21st Century, Pamela McCorduck and Nancy Ramsey (1997). Four scenarios for women’s lives across the globe over the next 20 years, ranging from virtual slavery to liberation, and from stagnation to separatism.
Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney (1999). Dramatic history of the 20th century’s last civil rights movement.
Self, Identity, and Social Movements, Sheldon Stryker, Timothy J. Owens, Robert W. White, Editors (2000). A psychological view of social movements.
Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements, Bill Moyer with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, Steven Soifer (2001). A model of the eight stages through which social movements evolve and the four roles that activists play in fostering social change.
Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America, Larry Gross (2002), The mass media’s relationship to homosexuality from mid-century to the present day.
Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights, Eric Marcus, (2002). Illuminates a history of the movement with 60 “personal is political” stories.
Brown: The Last Discovery of America, Richard Rodriguez (2002). Life in the “brown” postmodern mélange that is gradually supplanting identity politics.
Liberty, Equality, and Justice
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville (1835-40). Detected the American predilection for equality and predicted it was irreversible.
Two Cheers for Democracy, E. M. Forster (1938). “One (cheer) because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.” Could a dignitarian movement earn the cheer Forster withheld, in the 21st century perhaps?
The Opium of the Intellectuals, Raymond Aron (1955). Deconstruction of the left-right divide in European politics.
Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin (1958). Elucidates the trade-offs between freedom, liberty, justice, dignity, and equality. Two Faces of Liberalism, John Gray (1999) tackles the same issues.
Strong Democracy, Benjamin R. Barber (1984). The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy-not only in politics, but in other civil institutions.
Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America, Garry Wills (1992). By invoking Jefferson’s “All are created equal” at Gettysburg, Lincoln asserted the equality of the races.
The End of Equality, Mickey Kaus (1992). “Civic Liberalism,” emphasizing not money equality but social equality, as the path to justice.
Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know that Liberals Don’t, George Lakoff (1996). Linguistic deconstruction of American partisan politics.
Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, Richard Rorty (1998). Rehabilitating our democratic institutions to achieve social justice.
The Story of American Freedom, Eric Foner (1998). The long and winding road toward freedom and justice in America.
On Democracy, Robert A. Dahl (1999). The perennial struggle to find equality within democracy.
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins (1999). If capitalism were shorn of rankism, Man’s economic relationship to the planet would bear a striking resemblance to natural capitalism.
The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States, Alex Keyssar (2000). Democracy’s mantra-one man, one vote-is not as straight-forward as it may seem.
The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics, Ted Halstead and Michael Lind (2001). Imagining a new politics beyond the old categories of Right and Left.
Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips (2002). A reminder of the gap between Jefferson’s “All are created equal” and the current reality wherein the U. S. is “home to greater economic inequality than any other Western nation.” Is American democracy becoming a plutocracy?
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Greg Palast (2002). The corrupting influence of big money on American democracy.
Memoir & Essay
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1929). A feminist manifesto that demystifies genius.
Writing a Woman’s Life, Carolyn Heilbrun (1988). Questing lives are no longer just for men.
Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson (1989). Five women move out of Nobodyland.
Not Entitled, Frank Kermode (1995). Proceeding from its Shakespearian epigram (“He was a kind of nothing, titleless”), this memoir illuminates the process whereby identities evolve out of nothing, and how remembering this only gains in importance as titles accumulate.
Living without a Goal, Jay Ogilvy (1995). Fashioning a life not in service to a goal but as a personal work of art.
Etiquette and Manners
Rudeness and Civility, John F. Kasson (1990). Manners encode civility, but “Established codes of behavior have often served in unacknowledged ways as checks against a fully democratic order.”
Miss Manners Rescues Civilization, Judith Martin (1996). The title hints at the connection between rankism, indignity, indignation, and violence.
Civility: Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, Stephen Carter (1998).
A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals, and Misbehavior in Modern America, Mark Caldwell (2001). Do manners within hierarchies support or suppress abuses of rank? Or, both?
Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, P. M. Forni (2002). How civility affects the quality of life in the workplace and in society at large.
Rankism in the Workplace
Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge and Combat Workplace Bullying, Tim Field (1996). Written with the experience and insight that only a one-time target can impart. Details the injury to health caused by stress resulting from bullying and harassment.
Work Abuse: How to Recognize and Survive It, Chauncey Hare and Judith Wyatt (1997). Profound, pioneering work that delivers on the brave promise-survive!-of its title. Web site: home.netcom.com/~workfam1/
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, Studs Terkel (ppb.(Paperback 1997). Classic depiction of the lives of workers, in their own words.
Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy, Robert Pollin and Stephanie Luce (1998). The basic text of the Living Wage Movement.
Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, Noa Davenport, Ruth Distler Schwartz, Gail Pursell Elliott (1999). A safety manual for avoiding the dignity-robbing trauma of being ganged-up upon by co-workers. Web site: mobbing-usa.com
The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret, Michael Zweig (2000). Sees class not as wealth, but as power, i.e., as rank in a social hierarchy.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001). Working a succession of subsistence level jobs, the author chronicles the daily struggle of the working poor, and concludes that they are unacknowledged benefactors whose work effectively subsidizes everyone else.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, Jim Collins (2001). Great companies are inhospitable to rankism.
Rankism in Education
The Rise of the Meritocracy, Michael Young (1958). Introduced the word “meritocracy,” as a pejorative, arguing that basing advancement on educational testing instead of inheritance would skim the cream off the working class, denude it of leadership, and thus damage the cause of social justice.
Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, A.S. Neill (1960). As a school teacher, Neill bore the title “dominie.” The transformation of teaching from domination to exemplification.
Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too?, John Gardner (1961, rev. 1995). The title is one of those pregnant questions that suggests its own answer.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire (1980). The connection between learning and the ecology of power that shapes it at every turn.
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, Jonathan Kozol (1991). The toll taken by rankist schools.
You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, Vivian Paley (1992). Nipping rankism in the bud.
An Aristocracy of Everyone, Benjamin R. Barber (1992). Democratizing education.
The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, Nicholas Lemann (1999). A key instrument of American meritocracy-the S.A.T.-fails to apportion opportunity equally and fairly: “You can’t undermine social rank by setting up an elaborate process of ranking.”
Nobody Left to Hate: Teaching Compassion after Columbine, Elliot Aronson (2000). A social psychological perspective on bullying, humiliation, and exclusion in schools.
Schools That Learn, Peter Senge, Editor (2000). An overview of the transformation required of schools in post-industrial, knowledge-based societies.
Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education for the 21st Century, Riane Eisler (paperback 2001). A blueprint for the participatory, proactive education children will need to flourish in knowledge-based economies.
Mom, They’re Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems, Michael Thompson, Lawrence J. Cohen, Catherine O’Neill Grace (2002). The stereotype of the school bully is outmoded: nowadays, social cruelty is more likely to come from kids with social power than those with brute strength.
International Politics and Human Rights
Theory of International Politics, Kenneth Waltz (1979). The dominant paradigm for the study of power and security among nation-states.
Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin R. Barber (1995). Democratizing the international economy and global institutions.
Democracy at Risk: Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street, Jeff Gates (2000). A passionate, fact-laden, and rigorous argument from the architect of the legislation that created ESOP’s (employee stock ownership plans) for sharing capital in the name of building a fully-functioning democracy.
The Future of International Human Rights: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Burns H. Weston, Editor (2000). Assesses the legacy of the Universal Declaration, and explores the viable pathways to the future that the Declaration opens up.
The Shadow of the Sun, Ryszard Kapuscinski (2001). Indignities of third world life.
Empire, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2001). The supranational order presiding over globalization lacks the democratic mechanisms that give representation to the citizens of nation-states. Protestors are not necessarily against globalization, but they are for the democratization of globalizing processes.
“The US and International Organizations” by Stanley Hoffman in Eagle Rules? Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the Twenty-First Century, Edited by Robert J. Lieber (2001). Hoffman’s term “bossism”-the use of international and regional institutions to impose American views-gives an evocative name to the humiliations of international rankism.
Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, Michael Ignatieff, et al (2001). Deep questions about the future of human rights.
Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality, Ronald Dworkin (2002). Argues that politics should place the pursuit of equality over the pursuit of liberty; that persistent inequality reflects the fact that the wealthy can buy the political influence that shields their ranks from fair competition.
The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (2002). The loneliness of the long-distance superpower.
Global Women: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild, Editors (2002). The migrant nanny-or cleaning woman, nursing care attendant, maid-eases a “care deficit” in rich countries, while her absence creates a “care deficit” back home. This anthology reveals that the main resource extracted from the third world is no longer gold or silver, but love.
Rich Democracies: Political Economy, Public Policy and Performance, Harold L. Wilensky (2002). An empirical, comparative study showing that consensual decision-making serves a nation’s citizens better than confrontation and shedding light on the likely paths of development of rich democracies as they become richer.
A Time for Choices: Deep Dialogues for Deep Democracy, Edited by Michael Toms (2002). A collection of interviews conducted in the aftermath of 9-11 on New Dimensions Radio with a diverse group of people. My piece provides a synopsis of the present book, locating the solution to terrorism in overcoming the rankism, recognition disorders, and dignity-indignity gaps that lie at its roots.
Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11, Thomas Friedman (2002). What we must do and, equally, what they must do-to avoid a foolish and unnecessary clash of civilizations.
Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Johan Huizinga. (1950). Is Man Homo Sapiens (the Wise), Homo Faber (the Maker), or Homo Ludens (the Player)? Or, is Man Homo Modulus (the Modeler), capable of distinguishing between proper and improper uses of power, and disallowing those that do net harm (that is, will Homo Modulus overcome rankism)?
Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti. (1960). Somebodies “sting” nobodies, who displace the insult onto nobodies’ nobodies.
Natural Law and Human Dignity, Ernst Bloch (German 1961; English paperback 1986). Upholds the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity-“a tradition that has not yet become”-against all forms of tyranny.
A Theory of Justice, John Rawls (1971; rev. 1999). Classic treatment of justice as fairness. “Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.”
Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality, Michael Walzer (1983). Illuminates the path to social justice.
The End of History and The Last Man, Francis Fukuyama (1992). Democracy’s “long march” to preeminence.
The Good Society: The Humane Agenda, John Kenneth Galbraith (1996). Provides an answer to its question: “The tragic gap between the fortunate and the needful having been recognized, how can it be closed?”
The Decent Society, Avishai Margalit (1996). A “decent” society is a dignity-respecting society, that is, one that disallows institutional humiliation of the weak.
Inequality Reexamined (1996) and Development as Freedom (1999), Amartya Sen. Development economics that transcends left-right politics.
On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry (1999). The symmetries of art (e.g., beauty as symmetry), of nature (e.g., invariance principles of physics), and the symmetry of everyone’s relation to one another (e.g., Rawls’s principles of justice) are connected.
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright (2000). Right makes might, not vice versa.
The Power of Partnership: The Seven Relationships that Will Change Your Life, Riane Eisler (2002). By the author of bestseller The Chalice and the Blade (1987), this practical handbook tells how to move from control and domination to respectful partnership in personal relationships, organizations, workplaces, and communities.