Book report on “Worked to the Bone” by Pem Buck
“Worked to the Bone” by Pem Buck is the novel that reveals the evolution of the rural population of Kentucky from the early 20thcentury till present days era. The author raises very important issues, which traditionally remained unnoticed by the public, including issues of social inequality which actually eliminated the frontier between whites and blacks, but racial prejudices raised such barriers and were intentionally maintained by the ruling elite. In fact, the book provides an extremely interesting retrospection of the development of rural areas of Kentucky, where people have undergone dramatic influences and where they suffered from poverty, racial discrimination, internal conflicts and confrontation.
At the same time, the book begins with the introduction which provides a view from under the sink that means that the author attempts to show the real life of the poor from their standpoint. In the first chapter, the author analyzes the roots of the socioeconomic inequality in the South as a cause of the further problems of the local population and interracial and social conflicts. The author argues that the emergence of the class of rich was confronted to the pauperization of a considerable part of the local population. In the second chapter, the author shows that the ruling, white elite have started to develop the concept of white privilege in order to prevent the rebellion and social outburst caused by increasing socioeconomic problems and extreme poverty of a large part of the population. In fact, the concept of white privilege was an ideological basis which confronted whites and blacks on the premise that whites should have privileges a priori, but the author shows that the white poor did not have any privileges at all. To prove this and debunk the myth of white privileges, the author describes the life of white and black and reveals that they were in a practically identical economic position. In the fourth chapter the author argues that the concept of whiteness became a powerful tool which was used to distract people from their socioeconomic problems and develop the belief that being white means having an advantageous position in the society, but this idea has nothing in common with the actual position of white poor. At the same time, in the fifth chapter the author reveals the fact that the position of white and black poor was desperate and there was a real threat of the social unrest, if the ruling elite failed to keep under control the poor. In the six chapter, the author explores issues of gender and racial inequality and their impact on the level of income of deprived categories of the population, namely women and black. Buck writes about a psychological effect which determined the view on women and black as inferior that led to their lower level of income. The seventh chapter is a sheer criticism of the existing inequality and attempts of the ruling elite to maintain control through the drainage system which confronted the poor with each other and prevented rebellion. In the next chapter the author severely criticizes the ruling elite, which appropriated wealth by means pauperization of a larger part of the population. In the ninth chapter, the author extrapolates this problem at the national level and reveals that the large capital controls the entire nation. In the tenth chapter, she attempts to reconsider the policies conducted by the ruling elite and raises ethical issues to reveal the injustice of the existing social system and to develop alternatives. In the eleventh chapter, she discusses the emergence of Ku Klux Clan as an attempt to implement the concept of white privileges and confront white and black poor. In the twelfth chapter, she describes effects of such policies on the middle-class since they led to the emergence of fascism and racism. In the thirteenth chapter, Buck reveals the attempt of the ruling elite to adapt new strategies to maintain control over the oppressed class. Policies become milder but the inequality and social injustice persists. In the fourteenth chapter, she writes about the transition to the concept of “New South” which pretends to be democratic and just, but, in actuality, the inequality persists and a large part of the population remains in the inferior position. In the fifteenth chapter, the author extrapolates policies applied in the South on the entire world and writes about the New World Order. In the next chapter, she argues that such policies lead to the maintenance of radical concepts and nourishes the development of fascist ideas. Finally, in the seventeenth chapter, she author argues the concept of whiteness was and still is used to maintain the existing social order and to justify existing socioeconomic inequalities.
At the same time, it should be said that the author provides a large overview of the problem of race, class and inequality in the USA because her description of the life of the Kentucky community can be easily extrapolated on the entire nation. Problems she raised in her book were typical for the USA, but she uses the description of Kentucky rural population and the life of local people to provide readers with vivid and eloquent examples which back up her main message. In such a context, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the author paid a particular attention to the injustice of the existing social system. In her book, she depicts a picture of the society where inequality is not just a norm, but is a tool, which can be used efficiently by the ruling elite to manipulate with the oppressed classes using such issues as race and social status to encourage internal conflicts between the class of dispossessed.
In this respect, it should be said that the author perfectly illustrates how the ruling elite used racial biases and prejudices to make white and black poor coming into clashes. In such a way, the ruling class has diverted the social hatred of disadvantaged groups of the population from active social protests toward open conflicts with other poor. Therefore, the emergence of Ku Klux Clan was a result of such manipulative policies. At the same time, the functioning of such organizations encouraged interracial conflicts and inequality and such conflicts seem to be particularly strange and illogical, when the author describes the actual socioeconomic position of both black and white poor. In actuality, the author definitely stands on the ground that poverty does not have color. What is meant here is the fact that both whites and blacks lived in striking poverty and a considerable part of the white rural population of Kentucky lived in poverty and from the economic point of view the white poor could hardly be distinguished from the black poor. These two groups of the population were equally deprived of economic opportunities and lived out of sheer dependence on the good will of the ruling class, which, though, was unwilling to share its wealth and revenues with the dispossessed.
However, white and black poor failed to untie their efforts in the struggle for their economic rights and improvement of their socioeconomic status. The author reveals the fact that, instead of an organized struggle against the ruling elite, which actually appropriated a larger part of the wealth, which was mainly produced by the poor, white and black poor became subjects to manipulations of the ruling elite. To put it more precisely, the ruling class used the concept of race and racial difference as a pretext for conflicts between the poor. In fact, the ruling elite attempted to convince the white poor that it is the black poor that are the primary cause of their problems and this trend to artificial confrontation on the racial ground persisted throughout the century.
Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that the book “Worked to the Bone” by Pem Buck reveals the development or, to put it more precisely, the persistence of the unjust social system which encourages racial and gender inequality as means to distract the poor from the essence of their problems – their poverty. In such a way, the author shows that the ruling elite attempts to preserve its power and prevent social rebellion through confrontation between the poor.