Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States?

Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States?

by Robin Archer
Pub. Date:
Princeton University Press
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Why Is There No Labor Party in the United States?

Why is the United States the only advanced capitalist country with no labor party? This question is one of the great enduring puzzles of American political development, and it lies at the heart of a fundamental debate about the nature of American society. Tackling this debate head-on, Robin Archer puts forward a new explanation for why there is no American labor party—an explanation that suggests that much of the conventional wisdom about "American exceptionalism" is untenable.

Conventional explanations rely on comparison with Europe. Archer challenges these explanations by comparing the United States with its most similar New World counterpart—Australia. This comparison is particularly revealing, not only because the United States and Australia share many fundamental historical, political, and social characteristics, but also because Australian unions established a labor party in the late nineteenth century, just when American unions, against a common backdrop of industrial defeat and depression, came closest to doing something similar.

Archer examines each of the factors that could help explain the American outcome, and his systematic comparison yields unexpected conclusions. He argues that prosperity, democracy, liberalism, and racial hostility often promoted the very changes they are said to have obstructed. And he shows that it was not these characteristics that left the United States without a labor party, but, rather, the powerful impact of repression, religion, and political sectarianism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691149349
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 09/20/2010
Series: Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives Series
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

List of Figures xi

List of Tables xii

List of Abbreviations xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Labor-based Parties 3

Explaining by Comparing 6

Some Possible Objections 10

Historical Overview 13

Mutual Awareness 17

Chapter Summary 19

Chapter 1: Workers 23

Prosperity 23

Skilled and Unskilled Workers 31

The Effect of the New Unionism 36

Workers and Farmers 39

Conclusion 47

Chapter 2: Race 49

The Extent of Racial Hostility 50

The Effect in Australia 55

The Effect in the United States Compared 58

European Immigration 63

Conclusion 71

Chapter 3: Elections and the Constitution 73

Early Suffrage 73

The Electoral System 77

Multimember Districts 80

The Case of Illinois 82

Federalism 84

Presidentialism 86

Conclusion 91

Chapter 4: The Courts 93

The Court Repression Thesis 93

Labor Law and the Courts 95

Union Attitudes towards Politics 98

The Effect of Court Repression 102

Conclusion 110

Chapter 5: Repression 112

Two Theses on Repression 112

The Extent of Repression 113

Soldiers and Police 121

The Effect of Repression in Australia 124

The Effect in the United States Compared 127

The Effect in Illinois Compared 133

Complexities and Qualifications 139

Conclusion 141

Chapter 6: Liberalism 143

Social Egalitarianism 145

Labor Leaders in Australia 147

Labor Leaders in the United States 152

Were Their Claims Plausible? 155

Individual Freedom 160

Labor Leaders in Australia 160

Labor Leaders in the United States 164

Were Their Claims Plausible? 168

Conclusion 175

Chapter 7: Religion 177

The Extent of Religious Involvement 178

The Nature of Religious Beliefs 179

Protestant Clergy 182

Catholic Clergy 184

The Response of Labor Leaders to Clerical Hostility 187

Religion and the Party System 188

The Late 1880s and the Early 1890s 193

The Effect in the United States 197

The Effect in Australia Compared 200

Conclusion 204

Chapter 8: Socialism 207

Left-Wing Reform Ideologies 208

Labor Parties and Left-Wing Factionalism 214

Socialists and Unionists in the United States 219

Socialists and Unionists in Australia Compared 225

Conclusion 230

Conclusion 233

Negative Findings 233

Positive Findings 237

American Politics and Society 241

Appendix: Notes and Sources for the Tables 245

Notes 257

Bibliography 299

Index 337

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