The Neglect of Social Class: Why Should We Care?
What Should We Do?
Psychology and Economic Injustice: Personal, Professional and Political Intersections.
By Bernice Lott and Heather E. Bullock, Washington D.C.: American Psychological
Association, 2007. 190 pp. $49.95 (hardback) IBSN 1-59147-429-9
Maureen C. McHugh
Published online: 28 January 2009
Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009
“Despite the overwhelming evidence of its powerful
contribution to human experience, social class remains a
relatively neglected subject in psychology” (p.3). This is
how Bernice Lot and Heather Bullock introduce their text.
Their work is a call to action for psychologists, urging more
serious attention to the realities of the lives of poor women
and their families, and arguing that social class is essential
to our understanding of the human experience. Lott and
Bullock insist that, in our work as researchers, service
providers, educators and policy advocates we have a
responsibility to better understand the causes of poverty
and its impact on health and mental health. The authors
explain their mission to “argue for increased empirical and
theoretical attention to the antecedents and consequences of
economic disparities, for greater understanding of the
relationship between such disparities and gender, and for
the need to apply our knowledge by proposing and
supporting policies designed to ensure positive social
change” (p. 3). The authors propose a research and
advocacy agenda for psychology, and feminist psychology
in particular, that will advance social justice, demonstrating
that “economic justice is a differential reality in the lives of
women and demands full inclusion in our work” (p. 18).
As indicated by the subtitle, the book is an exploration
of the intersection of the personal, the political and the
professional. In terms of personal, each of the authors
presents an extended personal narrative. Bernice Lott is a
professor emeritus of psychology at the University of
Rhode Island and has received awards acknowledging her
scholarly, teaching, mentoring and social policy contribu-
tions from APA’s Committee on Women, Division 35 of
APA, The Association for Women in Psychology (AWP),
and the National Multicultural Conference and Summit.
Here, she describes herself as a child of a low-income
immigrant Jewish family, and traces her personal odyssey
through educational systems, marriage, children, and part-
time and adjunct academic positions to her current status.
She articulates how her personal life and her professional
and political work are intertwined, and how her feminism
and struggle for social justice are connected to her own
personal experiences. Heather Bullock’s story indicates
how feminism transformed the academy in the decades
between Lott’s education and her own; in college she took
classes on the psychology of gender and had feminist
psychologist mentors in graduate school. A seminar on the
social psychology of poverty changed her life, and lead to
her current interests: interpersonal and institutional class-
ism, welfare policy, and class-based political mobilization.
These interests can also be partly traced to her own family
experience. Heather Bullock describes her family as
“solidly middle class,” and yet her family was also on
welfare and was intermittently homeless.
Through their personal stories the authors make two
important points. First they reveal the connection between
personal identities and experiences and the perspectives,
passions and papers we produce as professionals. Lott and
Bullock demonstrate the importance of critical self reflec-
tion with regard to social class as well as gender, race,
regionalism, religion and other statuses. As Bullock notes,
“Narrative and other reflective analyses of the intersections
of class, gender, race and ethnicity have played a
particularly crucial role in transforming understanding of
Sex Roles (2009) 61:142–143
M. C. McHugh (*)
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania,
Indiana, PA 15705, USA