Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America / Edition 1

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This is the first systematic study of strikebreaking, intimidation, and anti-unionism in the United States, subjects essential to a full understanding of labor's fortunes in the twentieth century. Paradoxically, the country that pioneered the expansion of civil liberties allowed corporations to assemble private armies to disrupt union organizing, spy on workers, and break strikes. Using a social-historical approach, Stephen Norwood focuses on the mercenaries the corporations enlisted in their anti-union efforts—particularly college students, African American men, the unemployed, and men associated with organized crime. Norwood also considers the paramilitary methods unions developed to counter mercenary violence. The book covers a wide range of industries across much of the country.

Norwood explores how the early twentieth-century crisis of masculinity shaped strikebreaking's appeal to elite youth and the media's romanticization of the strikebreaker as a new soldier of fortune. He examines how mining communities' perception of mercenaries as agents of a ribald, sexually unrestrained, new urban culture intensified labor conflict. The book traces the ways in which economic restructuring, as well as shifting attitudes toward masculinity and anger, transformed corporate anti-unionism from World War II to the present.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
An outstanding contribution to U.S. labor and social historiography. (Robert H. Zieger, author of The CIO, 1935-1955)

This is a fresh and expansive probe into a mercenary underworld heretofore the stuff of lore and legend. By opening our eyes to the culture, ideology, and technique of early twentieth century strikebreaking, Norwood skillfully brings us back to a future with which we are again becoming woefully familiar. (Nelson Lichtenstein, author of State of the Union: A Century of American Labor)

Norwood, who writes with an eye for the apt quotation and telling detail, has organized a complex subject into a coherent and effective narrative. An intelligent work of prize-winning caliber, it provides a model for labor historians to follow. (Paul Avrich, City University of New York )

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807853733
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/27/2002
  • Series: Gender and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,118,264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen H. Norwood, professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, is author of the award-winning Labor's Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators and Worker Militancy, 1878-1923.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Emergence of the Anti-Labor Mercenary

1 The Student as Strikebreaker: College Youth and the Crisis of Masculinity in the Early Twentieth Century

2 Gunfighters on the Urban Frontier: Strikebreakers in the Car Wars

3 Forging a New Masculinity: African American Strikebreaking in the North in the Early Twentieth Century

4 Cossacks of the Coal Fields: Corporate Mercenaries in the Mine Wars

5 Ford's Brass Knuckles: Harry Bennett, the Cult of Muscularity, and Anti-Labor Terror, 1920-1945

6 They Shall Not Pass: Paramilitary Combat against Strikebreaking in the Auto Industry, 1933-1939

Epilogue: Anti-Unionism in America, 1945-2000




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