Schools of Democracy: A Political History of the American Labour Movement / Edition 1

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In this new political history of the labor movement, Clayton Sinyai examines the relationship between labor activism and the American democratic tradition. Sinyai shows how America's working people and union leaders debated the first questions of democratic theory and in the process educated themselves about the rights and responsibilities of democratic citizenship. In tracing the course of the American labor movement from the founding of the Knights of Labor in the 1870s to the 1968 presidential election and its aftermath, Sinyai explores the political dimensions of collective bargaining, the structures of unions and businesses, and labor's relationships with political parties and other social movements. Schools of Democracy analyzes how labor activists wrestled with fundamental aspects of political philosophy and the development of American democracy including majority rule versus individual liberty, the rule of law, and the qualifications required of citizens of a democracy. Offering a balanced assessment of mainstream leaders of American labor, from Samuel Gompers to George Meany, and their radical critics, including the Socialists and the Industrial Workers of the World, Sinyai provides an unusual and refreshing perspective on American labor history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is the rare volume of labor history that opens with a quote from Rousseau. What has the Social Contract to do with John L. Lewis's famous dictum that unions exist to get 'more'—a formulation that, taken at face value, shows scant regard for the general welfare? But as either a scholar or trade-union activist, Clayton Sinyai sees no contradiction. 'Equipping America's workers for democracy was—and is—how American trade unionists find meaning,' he argues.' Schools of Democracy thus tells a familiar story with a new twist."—Commonweal

"Liberals and conservatives alike should read this book as a useful reminder that true democracy in America depends on the freedom of working people to form independent organizations and have a real voice in decisions about our future. Schools of Democracy documents the fact that America's promise to value and reward work has been kept only when working families have had strong, democratic unions that can hold corporations and government accountable."—Andrew L. Stern, President, Service Employees International Union

"Schools of Democracy is a fresh and compelling reinterpretation of U.S. labor history from a political rather than an economic standpoint. Sinyai restores American workers and their unions to their rightful place as key defenders of democratic government and the educated, active citizenry upon which it rests. His book also has the singular merit of treating Samuel Gompers, together with other labor leaders, as the important political figures and public intellectuals that they were."—Dorothy Sue Cobble, author of The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America

"Schools of Democracy is lucid, thorough, and written with confidence and humor. It surveys a wide range of labor history. Clayton Sinyai subjects familiar markers in labor history—the Knights of Labor, the rise of the AFL, the emergence of the CIO, and postwar labor history—to a new standard: how unions legitimated themselves according to democratic theory."—Alan L. Draper, St. Lawrence University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801472992
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 888,761
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Democracy and the Worker, Past and Present 1
1 Schools of Democracy and Independence: The Labor Movement and the Democratic Republic 17
2 A Wooden Man? Industrialization, Democracy, and Civic Virtue 50
3 The AFL and Progressive Politics 80
4 The New Deal and the Birth of the CIO 110
5 The New Deal Democracy and Industrial Unionism at Flood Tide 136
6 The AFL-CIO in the Age of Organization 164
7 Not a Slogan or a Fad: Labor and the Great Society 199
Aftermath: Labor and Civic Education in Lean Times 224
Notes 233
Selected Bibliography 267
Index 283
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