April 26, 2021

Gabriel Winant

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes GABRIEL WINANT—celebrated writer and an assistant professor of History at the University of Chicago—for a discussion of his book The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. He will be joined in conversation by KATRINA FORRESTER—assistant professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University—and CHARLES PETERSON, a senior editor at n+1.


Pittsburgh was once synonymous with steel. But today most of its mills are gone. Like so many places across the United States, a city that was a center of blue-collar manufacturing is now dominated by the service economy—particularly health care, which employs more Americans than any other industry. Gabriel Winant takes us inside the Rust Belt to show how America’s cities have weathered new economic realities. In Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, he finds that a new working class has emerged in the wake of deindustrialization.

As steelworkers and their families grew older, they required more health care. Even as the industrial economy contracted sharply, the care economy thrived. Hospitals and nursing homes went on hiring sprees. But many care jobs bear little resemblance to the manufacturing work the city lost. Unlike their blue-collar predecessors, home health aides and hospital staff work unpredictable hours for low pay. And the new working class disproportionately comprises women and people of color.

Today health care workers are on the front lines of our most pressing crises, yet we have been slow to appreciate that they are the face of our twenty-first-century workforce. The Next Shift offers unique insights into how we got here and what could happen next. If health care employees, along with other essential workers, can translate the increasing recognition of their economic value into political power, they may become a major force in the twenty-first century.

About Author(s)

Gabriel Winant is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. His writing about work, inequality, and capitalism in modern America has appeared in The NationThe New RepublicDissent, and n+1.

Charles Peterson is a senior editor at n+1 magazine, where he has worked since 2007. He is also a Klarman postdoctoral fellow in the society of fellows and the history department at Cornell University. He holds a PhD in American Studies from Harvard University and has written for n+1, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Review of Books. He is currently at work on a book about the history of meritocracy and Silicon Valley.

Katrina Forrester is Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University. Her first book In the Shadow of Justice is out now in paperback. She is co-editor of Nature, Action and the Future and her writing—on pornography, sex work, policing, surveillance, technology, climate change, the gig economy, and other topics—has appeared in the New YorkerLondon Review of BooksHarper's, the Guardian, the NationDissentn+1Jacobin, and elsewhere.