9780465004096 / 0465004091

From The Ashes Of The Old American Labor And America's Future


Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

The years of American economic prosperity after World War II, argues sociologist Stanley Aronowitz, resulted in the diminishment of the political influence the labor movement had acquired. By the 1980s, which included Reagan's decisive undercutting of the air-traffic controllers' strike and increasing concessions to management by unions, it made sense to question whether such a thing as a labor movement remained. Changes in Teamster and AFL-CIO leadership in the 1990s have increased the likelihood of strong labor's recurrence--but what would it take to make that happen?

Aronowitz presents a compelling case for the idea that "unions, if they are to thrive, must overcome the complacency of the last fifty years and expand labor's influence throughout politics and culture. But first labor must overcome its image as the representative of a narrow segment of the working population...." In intellectually strong but clear-spoken language, Aronowitz urges labor once again to define itself in sharp opposition to the ideology of corporate capitalism. He might attract some controversy with his suggestion that doing so requires a distancing of the unions from the Democratic Party (which, he reminds the reader, has drifted increasingly to the right under Bill Clinton, whose "reform" of welfare not only took money from the unemployed but may also keep wages down for the working poor). Might, that is, if labor had a strong enough voice for its dissent to be heard. Aronowitz delivers some rather intriguing proposals; it remains for history to determine whether an audience exists that will absorb and act upon them. --Ron Hogan

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