The servant class city: urban revitalization versus the working poor in San Diego

Karjanen, David J. The servant class city: urban revitalization versus the working poor in San Diego. Minnesota, 2016. 292p ISBN 9780816694624, $98.00; ISBN 9780816697489 pbk, $28.00; ISBN 9781452953366 ebook.

Karjanen (American studies, Minnesota) examines the servant class (hospitality industry, retail, informal work). Good jobs (regular and sufficient hours with benefits and ladders for advancement) are very scarce. With a limited social safety net, people rely on “do-it-yourself” safety nets of family and friends. Asset poverty makes the risks associated with unexpected costs or expenditures on education and training too high for the reward. Karjanen argues that conventional policy prescriptions fail in the complex situations these workers face. Job quality is more important than the number of jobs. The working poor need financial institutions designed to help them build assets. Karjanen is skeptical that current policies work. Urban policy should be more like public health practice and preventive medicine. This valuable case study does an excellent job of demonstrating the complex reality the hardworking poor face in neoliberal capitalism. Largely a descriptive study, the book is slow reading except for the vignettes in later chapters and the author’s discussion of what is wrong with current policy. For collections in the sociology of work, urban studies, and inequality.
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

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