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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can working class solidarity reemerge?
For the author the working class for its own wellbeing must be unified against the predations and exploitations of employers. The book focuses on the historical existence and effectiveness of worker solidarity as primarily exercised through unions.
The need for working class solidarity arose as formerly independent craftsmen were forced into a factory system...
Published on September 22, 2000 by J. Grattan

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too short, but great bibliography
As a grad student in American History, I hoped this book would give me a brief but useful overview of the role of labor in history. While this is definitely a "short" work, it highlights late 19th and early 20th century labor movements at the expense of early material. Indeed, he only devotes 20 pages for the colonial period, Revolution, and all pre-Civil War...
Published on April 11, 2000


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too short, but great bibliography, April 11, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Revolutionary Studies) (Paperback)
As a grad student in American History, I hoped this book would give me a brief but useful overview of the role of labor in history. While this is definitely a "short" work, it highlights late 19th and early 20th century labor movements at the expense of early material. Indeed, he only devotes 20 pages for the colonial period, Revolution, and all pre-Civil War developments! How stingy!
My disappointment is partially a measure of my interest in Revolutionary history and the shift from artisans to wage laborers. This early material is both fascinating and relevant for all sorts of later trends. If you share my interests, I recommend you run an Amazon search on authors such as Bruce Laurie, Merritt Roe Smith (a bit later but really interesting), Charles Dew, and Gordon Wood, to name a few. If you are interested in post-Civil War developments, this book may be just right for you: it is concise and easy to read, in spite of more than a few small errors. This is no more than an introduction and survey, but it can bring you up to speed on basic concepts very quickly.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Le Blanc's 22 page bibliographic essay and 19 page glossary. (He also includes a timeline and chronology, if you're into that sort of thing.) These sections are very useful as a quick reference while reading the book and afterward. The bibliographic essay points you to a broad spectrum of movies, documentaries, and books that should satisfy anyone's interests and needs (I can't wait to rent "On the Waterfront" and "Roger and Me" -- they sound great).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can working class solidarity reemerge?, September 22, 2000
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J. Grattan (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Revolutionary Studies) (Paperback)
For the author the working class for its own wellbeing must be unified against the predations and exploitations of employers. The book focuses on the historical existence and effectiveness of worker solidarity as primarily exercised through unions.
The need for working class solidarity arose as formerly independent craftsmen were forced into a factory system producing for an expansive capitalistic market and in the process lost control of their economic lives. Worker organizations such as the Knights of Labor, the Wobblies, and craft-based unions attempted to address this transformation and the accompanying brutal working conditions. Le Blanc clearly outlines their struggles: the extreme cyclic nature of late 19th century capitalism undercut worker militancy; racial, ethnic, religious, gender and skill differences undermined solidarity; employers mounted intense and often violent opposition with state support.
A main theme of the book is the effect on worker solidarity when union bureaucrats seek accommodation with business or rely on the state for survival. Gompers, first president of the AFL, eschewed worker militance in cooperating with the National Civic Federation and then the Wilson administration during WWI. Later, New Deal labor legislation as elaborated and implemented by the War Labor Board of WWII essentially prohibited workers from any exercise of power on shop-floors. Union leaders demonstrated a willingness to purge dissidents, pandering to red-scare mania, and to enforce contracts that traded economic gains for union members in exchange for unchallenged management control of workplaces - an unspoken social compact that has been shredded in the era of globalization.
The author points to some recent developments within and outside the labor movement as a result of the recognition of the poverty of post-WWII labor leadership. But a weakness of the book, since it purports to discuss the working class, is any real feel for the general citizenry's views on the need for worker activism. What have been the effects of consumerism and of the stunted and stilted information provided by media giants on the American public? Overall the book is a reasonably good introduction as to how the working class has fared over the last 150 years. Though not a fault of the author, the future of the working class emerges from this book as a very precarious project.
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