Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy

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The typical workplace is a hotbed of human relationships -- of friendships, conflicts, feuds, alliances, partnerships, coexistence, and cooperation. Here, problems are solved, progress is made, and rifts are mended because they need to be -- because the work has to get done. And it has to get done among increasingly diverse groups of co-workers. At a time when communal ties in American society are increasingly frayed and segregation persists, the workplace is more than ever the site where Americans from different ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds meet and forge serviceable and sometimes lasting bonds. What do these highly structured workplace relationships mean for a society still divided by gender and race? Structure and rules are, in fact, central to the answer. Workplace interactions are constrained by economic power and necessity, and often by legal regulation. They exist far from the civic ideal of free and equal citizens voluntarily associating for shared ends. Yet it is the very involuntariness of these interactions that helps to make the often-troubled project of racial integration comparatively successful at work. People can be forced to get along -- not without friction, but often with surprising success. This highly original exploration of the paradoxical nature -- and the paramount importance -- of workplace bonds concludes with concrete suggestions for how law can further realize the democratic possibilities of working together. In linking workplace integration and connectedness beyond work, Estlund suggests a novel and promising strategy for addressing the most profound challenges facing American society.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Estlund's book, then, provides an additional- and powerful- justification for many of the legal changes sought by scholars of labor and employment law...And, drawing on a wide range of convincing empirical data and democratic theory, she makes a good case."—Regional Labor Review

"It is not easy piecing together statistical evidence, social science research, and political theory. Professor Estlund gracefully accomplishes this task.... Working Together is a thought-provoking and scholarly work.... its implications for improving inter-group communications and democracy should serve as a counter-argument in the ongoing debate about unintended results of modern worklife."—New York Law Journal

"In this creative and original work, legal scholar Cynthia Estlund brings the workplace to the debates on civic engagement and civic associationalism. Workplaces are, after all, associations of citizens or polity members. The overarching point here is that placed of employment play neglected roles in developing civic engagement and cooperation. Estlund's more specific goal is to show how law can aid or retard these rarely recognized contributions. She presents a richly textured, unflinching, and progressive analysis."—Work and Occupations

"Cynthia Estlund contributes to the literature on communal ties, civil life, and self-government by considering the broad political effects of relationships formed in the not-so-voluntary arena of the American workplace.... [She] presents a wide-ranging review of empirical studies of workplace regulation and workplace bonds.... [and] offers a wealth of hypotheses presented in a carefully explicated logic."—Perspectives on Politics

"Working Together is an original and important book. With eloquent prose, Cynthia Estlund convincingly develops the argument, based on a careful integration of empirical studies and social and political theory, that working together enhances inter-group relations in the long run. Indeed her analysis demonstrates the work place is the most important setting for cooperative interaction among individuals of diverse backgrounds. This book has enormous relevance for students concerned about the future of civil society, and will be widely discussed and cited for many years."—William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University

"To reverse America's growing social fragmentation, especially in the context of increasing diversity, will require that we explore and exploit the civic potential of the workplace. Cynthia Estlund's book admirably opens that debate and should be on the 'must read' list of anyone concerned to revitalize American democracy."—Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone

"Working Together shines a bright line on group conflict and cooperation at a fundamental but understudied juncture in American social life: the workplace. Her study combines deep research and careful nuance with bristling insight and an accessible style that should attract a broad audience. For a host of reasons, American social analysts tend to minimize the importance of what happens at the job. Working Together is an important and impressive corrective."—Randall Kennedy, author of Interracial Intimacies

"What Carol Pateman and Robert Dahl did for workplace democracy 30 years ago, Cynthia Estlund has done for the contemporary workplace as a site of civic engagement. This book will be the touchstone for discussions of the political importance of race and gender integration in employment. Estlund's "constitution of the workplace", her cold-eyed account of the uses and limits of affirmative action and sexual harassment law, her fine-grained understanding of changing work environments, her fresh assessment of unions and alternative forms of worker representation provide important new resources for democratic theorists, legal scholars, and everyone party to the "social capital" debates."—Nancy L. Rosenblum, author of Membership and Morals

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195158281
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Lexile: 1600L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Estlund is Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University, where she teaches employment, labor, and property law.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Working Together 3
Pt. I Connectedness and Diversity in the Contemporary Workplace
2 Connectedness in the Workplace: A Sketch 23
3 From "the Workplace" to Workplaces: Variety and Change in the Organization of Work 35
4 Working Together Across Racial Lines: How Much Does It Happen and What Difference Does It Make? 60
5 Men and Women Working Together: Workplace Interaction Across Gender Lines (and Some Other Lines of Division) 84
Pt. II How Workplace Bonds Enrich Democratic Life
6 Situating the Workplace in Civil Society: Social Integration, Social Capital, and Deliberation at Work 105
7 Compulsion, Connectedness, and the Constitution of the Workplace 125
Pt. III Building Better Workplace Bonds: Preliminary Thoughts on What Law Can Do
8 Refining the "Equal Protection Clause" of the Workplace 145
9 Protecting Collective Voice and Promoting Cooperation in the Workplace 162
10 Conclusion 177
Notes 183
References 219
Index 235
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