Workers and Work In The Americas

Marc Becker's picture

This seminar is an introduction to the study of labor and the working class, broadly defined, from the early 1800s to the present. We will begin by exploring the varied understandings of labor associated with liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, and other theoretical traditions. From there we will survey the development of the field of labor history, focusing on the “new” labor histories of the 1960s and onward, characterized by bottom-up approaches and an emphasis on the interplay of political economy, social relations, and cultural identities. Since the 1980s the field has taken new turns, for instance by emphasizing the roles of race, gender, sexuality, religion, and art in working-class life and labor movements. Specific topics will include slavery and slave resistance, the rise of mass production and the modern corporation, trade unionism and other worker strategies, the segmentation of the workforce along ethnic, gender, and other lines, the connection between labor relations and environmental degradation and sustainability, increased capital mobility over the past century, and worker migration both within and between nations. By examining a wide range of case studies from the modern United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, we will seek to understand both the diversity of specific experiences and the global forces that shape workers’ lives across the hemisphere.

Categories: Syllabus
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