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Chapter 4 shifts focus from issues of patriotism and citizenship to the recreation and reconstruction of working-class attitudes towards labor and leisure. Work-related satire in the penny press exposed productive tensions between proper and improper male behavior—improper behavior that confounded the conventional image of the citizen-subject by confronting civic virtue with popular resistance to bourgeois prescription, which appears not as a natural quality of the gente decente (decent people) but as a form of class privilege. Moreover, these satires represented working-class men (and sometimes women) as more self-aware, more adaptable, and better attuned to the changing times than their bourgeois counterparts, characteristics that social observers, then and now, have considered essential to modern subjectivity—a telling reversal of conventional historical interpretations and contemporary bourgeois attitudes, which have insisted on a top down “civilizing process” as proper sentiments trickle down from the bourgeoisie to the lower classes.

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