A Contest of Ideas
Capital, Politics, and Labor
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Download PDF (130.0 KB)
Download PDF (42.7 KB)
Download PDF (57.7 KB)
Download PDF (47.3 KB)
Download PDF (46.0 KB)
Since the essays and interventions in this volume reach back, in some instances, more than thirty years, an acknowledgment of those who have helped along the way constitutes something close to a list of all who have inf_luenced my view of history and politics during those years. Some have been in the academy and others not; some have of_fered a close, critical analysis of a particular essay, while others ...
Download PDF (150.2 KB)
In 1nine.oldstyleeight.oldstyle3 I visited Clark Kerr, whom Governor Ronald Reagan had f_ired from his post as president of the University of California some sixteen years before. Kerr still had an of_f_ice on Channing Way in Berkeley, in the building that housed the UC Institute of Industrial Relations, where I had done much research for my dissertation, which, as it happened, was critical of the industrial relations regime ...
Part I. Shaping Myself, Shaping History
Download PDF (61.8 KB)
T_he essays in this section are biographical in orientation, exploring how I have written about the relationship between labor, capital, and politics and why my ideas have of_ten changed over the years. “Writing and Rewriting Labor’s Narra-tive” explains how, along with so many others in my New Lef_t generation, I have reframed my understanding of those structures and social impulses that create ...
Chapter 1. Writing and Rewriting Labor's Narrative
Download PDF (171.8 KB)
In the years af_ter 1nine.oldstyleseven.oldstyle0 my New Lef_t generation inaugurated a remarkable probe into the character, meaning, and history of the working class and its institutions. Two events in particular seemed to crystallize my decision to write a history of unionism and the state during the 1nine.oldstyle40s. T_he f_irst came on the evening of September 14, 1nine.oldstyleseven.oldstyle0, when a few dozen Berkeley students drove down to Fre-...
Chapter 2. Supply-Chain Tourist; or, How Globalization Has Transformed the Labor Question
Download PDF (127.0 KB)
I’m not much of a tourist, but I’m proud to think that I have visited what are, arguably, the three most important nodes of capitalist production during the last hundred years. When I toured the huge Ford production complex at River Rouge during the winter of 1nine.oldstyleseven.oldstyleeight.oldstyle, “Detroit,” as both organizational metaphor and industrial city, was already well past its prime. But the world of classical ...
Chapter 3. Historians as Public Intellectuals
Download PDF (105.8 KB)
What’s great about writing history is that everyone likes a good story, that aca-demic jargon can of_ten be kept to a minimum, and that a big readership, of a book or a blog, is rarely snif_fed at as pandering to the crowd. Many historians f_ind an audience far larger than that of their own professional discipline. Fulf_illing such ambitions may be far easier today than two or three decades ago, because even ...
Part II. Capital, Labor, and the State
Download PDF (60.7 KB)
In order to reform capitalism it is necessary to know where the power to reshape it lies, from the commanding heights of Wall Street and Washington to the gritty combat over authority and pay in thousands of factories, of_f_ices, and stores. T_his seems obvious, but too of_ten social historians have ignored any serious probe into the changing character of U.S. enterprise, especially when they studied the ...
Chapter 4. Tribunes of the Shareholder Class
Download PDF (129.3 KB)
It is surely a coincidence that the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center, located just a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, and home to so many stock, bond, and currency traders, was followed within the same decade by two other events that had signif_icant impact on America’s f_inancial industry: (1) the self-destruction of Enron and WorldCom, and (2) the 200eight.oldstyle world f_inan-...
Chapter 5. "The Man in the Middle"
Download PDF (250.1 KB)
T_he study of frontline supervisors—in the factory, of_f_ice, hospital ward, and aca-demic workplace—is once again making waves. T_he quest for a more ef_f_icient, and perhaps more humane, workplace all too of_ten begins with advice and ad-monition directed toward those who are charged with supervising the daily work lives of the dozen or so individuals who fall under their direct authority. Many of ...
Chapter 6. From Corporatism to Collective Bargaining
Download PDF (233.2 KB)
In recent years the decline of the trade union movement and the eclipse of the liberal ideology it long sustained has thrown into question the political assump-tions and organizational structures upon which the New Deal system of social regulation has rested. While the postwar generation of economists and social scientists once found the social and political “settlement” of the 1nine.oldstyle40s a bulwark ...
Chapter 7. Communism on the Shop Floor and Off
Download PDF (114.2 KB)
Communism, of the capital “C” variety, hardly exists in the world today, and in the United States it is an idea and a movement that is increasingly part of a distant past, more contemporary than Populism or Prohibition, but of seemingly less twenty-f_irst-century relevance than evangelical Protestantism or environmental activism. And yet this is a phenomenon that still generates the same kind of de-...
Part III. The Rights Revolution
Download PDF (54.9 KB)
T_hese essays demonstrate how the rise of a civil rights consciousness during the middle decades of the twentieth century was both organically linked to the rise of the New Deal–era trade unions while at the same time this new rights con-sciousness provided a set of legal and ideological structures that helped weaken those same institutions. When in the mid-1nine.oldstyleeight.oldstyle0s Robert Korstad and I began to ...
Chapter 8. Opportunities Found and Lost
Download PDF (223.9 KB)
Most historians would agree that the modern civil rights movement did not begin with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Yet all too of_ten the movement’s history has been written as if events before the mid-1nine.oldstyle50s constituted a kind of prehistory, important only insofar as they laid the legal and political foundation for the spectacular advances that came later. T_hose were the ...
Chapter 9. The Lost Promise of the Long Civil Rights Movement
Download PDF (182.2 KB)
In the f_if_teen decades since the demise of Reconstruction, the two most consequen-tial political transformations that have taken place in U.S. history are those that arose f_irst out of the New Deal impulse of the 1nine.oldstyle30s and then, just thirty years later, the new set of laws and mores that are identif_ied with the triumph of the civil rights movement. Indeed, one might well argue that these two moments of remarkably ...
Chapter 10. A New Era of Global Human Rights
Download PDF (146.0 KB)
A great paradox embodies the relationship between human rights and labor rights in the world today. Institutional trade unionism is not doing so well. T_his is most obvious in Anglo-America, where union density has declined dramatically during the last quarter century, and where unionism’s inf_luence, under both Labour and Democratic Party administrations, has been less than potent. With some notable ...
Part IV. The Specter on the Right
Download PDF (48.8 KB)
Historians on the lef_t now study the rise of the right. In this section I examine the origins of that conservative turn in politics, law, and culture that has so fascinated contemporary scholars. Here I not only explore the conservative triumph of the last three decades, but I also probe those weaknesses within the social democratic order, at home and abroad, that opened the door to the emergence of a potent ...
Chapter 11. The United States in the Great Depression
Download PDF (139.1 KB)
Was fascism a realistic possibility in the United States during the Great Depres-sion? Certainly if one seeks to measure that possibility in terms of the depth and severity of the crisis, both in economic and political terms, the United States was in the same league with Germany and other European nations that were devastated by the Great Depression. Unemployment reached 25 percent, f_ive ...
Chapter 12. Market Triumphalism and the Wishful Liberals
Download PDF (210.6 KB)
In the decade that followed the end of the Cold War, a triumphalism of the free market seemed to characterize much social thought and commentary, mainly on the right and within the Republican Party, but among many erstwhile progres-sives as well. T_he idea that capitalist markets are essential to, or even def_ine, the democratic idea has always been present in the West, but the idea achieved a near ...
Chapter 13. Did 1968 Change History?
Download PDF (148.0 KB)
Before we can ask if 1nine.oldstylesix.oldstyleeight.oldstyle changed history we must f_irst def_ine it. Of what are we speaking and remembering? What does it mean, these magical numbers, 1nine.oldstylesix.oldstyleeight.oldstyle? First, of course, it can stand for the entire 1nine.oldstylesix.oldstyle0s, which accommodates quite a bit: the civil rights movement, of course, and the legislation that f_lowed from it, as well as the rise of African American radicalism and nationalism in the streets ...
Chapter 14. Bashing Public Employees and Their Unions
Download PDF (138.8 KB)
When he was still President Obama’s chief of staf_f, Rahm Emanuel, later mayor of Chicago, famously quipped, “Never allow a crisis to go to waste.” Republican governors in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, and other states certainly took that advice to heart following the 2010 elections. By emphasizing, and in some cases manipulating, the red ink f_lowing through so many state budgets, they leveraged ...
Part V. Intellectuals and Their Ideas
Download PDF (46.8 KB)
Here the reader will f_ind portraits of f_ive activist intellectuals as well as some thoughts on why academics, as both a social group and as individuals, have be-come more important to the conf_licts that engage the labor movement, public policy, and the political culture in our own day. C. Wright Mills was a university sociologist; Harvey Swados wanted to be a novelist when he could f_ind the time ...
Chapter 15. C. Wright Mills
Download PDF (164.2 KB)
The New Men of Power is a study of trade unions and their leaders, the American political scene, and the prospects for a radicalized democracy in the years just af_ter World War II. When C. Wright Mills published the book in 1nine.oldstyle4eight.oldstyle, it identif_ied a newly empowered set of strategic actors who led the nation’s most important progressive institutions, “the only organizations capable of stopping the main drif_t ...
Chapter 16. Harvey Swados
Download PDF (113.3 KB)
Harvey Swados died in 1nine.oldstyleseven.oldstyle2, just as Americans began to rediscover the world of work. But he helped prepare the way. His novels, stories, and spirited reportage in the last decade and a half of his life helped uncover the political and social drama that unfolds in the daily routine of every American workplace. Nothing he wrote accomplished this with more power and insight than the series of interconnected ...
Chapter 17. B. J. Widick
Download PDF (94.8 KB)
In the annals of American labor and its committed partisans, Branko J. Widick, who died on June 2eight.oldstyle, 200eight.oldstyle, at the age of ninety-seven, is not a well-known f_ig-ure. He deserves much recognition and admiration, however, because Widick was not only an activist at the very epicenter of the great strikes that launched the industrial unions in the 1nine.oldstyle30s, but he also remained a radical and an acutely ...
Chapter 18. Jay Lovestone
Download PDF (112.5 KB)
T_he Cold War is long gone, but the ghosts of that era still walk among us. T_his is because so many of the political and ideological battles of the twentieth century depended, and still depend, upon our evaluation of a set of regimes whose ideol-ogy, for those on the lef_t, was seductively anticapitalist but whose authoritarian T_he American labor movement was right in the middle of that f_ight, because ...
Chapter 19. Herbert Hill in History and Contention
Download PDF (103.8 KB)
T_hurgood Marshall once described Herbert Hill as “the best barbershop lawyer in the United States.”uniF6DC T_hat he was, and a whole lot more. Hill was a warrior, a strategist, a polemicist, a man who identif_ied himself as “an unreconstructed abolitionist.”uniF63A As labor secretary of the National Association for the Advance-ment of Colored People (NAACP), he was a combatant in a war against men and ...
Chapter 20. Do Graduate Students Work?
Download PDF (94.7 KB)
Hundreds of thousands of graduate students grade millions of papers and blue books every year. T_he work is absolutely vital to the “product” put out by just about every American university, and of course they get paid for it, though not very much. T_housands of teaching assistants and research assistants are union members, and others would join if more statutes, on either the federal or state ...
Chapter 21. Why American Unions Need Intellectuals
Download PDF (105.4 KB)
Sixty-f_ive years ago, in The New Men of Power, C. Wright Mills made a perceptive observation about the troubled relationship between labor leaders and radical intellectuals during an era of Cold War militarism and conservative advance. Wrote Mills: “To have an American labor movement capable of carrying out the program of the lef_t, making allies among the middle class, and moving upstream ...
Download PDF (488.7 KB)
Download PDF (215.0 KB)
Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Working Class in American History