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ARTS

Social insecurity

In 2001, Nickel and Dimed got rapturous reviews for its exposure of the invisible poor; 10 years later, the groundbreaking investigation feels like business as usual

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Ehrenreich’s empathetic and often grimly jocular tone makes this a must-read classic of economic sociology, and a decade later the issues she identifies have only intensified. While it’s important for a new audience to be exposed to her stories, it’s disappointing more wasn’t done to update the text for this anniversary reprinting. A brief new afterword touches only superficially on the controversies that greeted the original publication (including Adam Shepard’s book Scratch Beginnings, written expressly to refute Ehrenreich’s “Marxist” thesis), and the copious statistical footnotes could stand refreshing with up-to-the-moment data.

Nevertheless, one question Nickel and Dimed asks still resonates with anyone worried about the costs our “race to the bottom” corporate culture imposes upon society’s collective soul: “If you hump away at menial jobs 360-plus days a year, does some kind of repetitive injury of the spirit set in?”

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