Why did American workers, unlike their European counterparts, fail to forge a class-based movement to pursue broad social reform? Was it simply that they lacked class consciousness and were more interested in personal mobility? In a richly detailed survey of labor law and labor history, William Forbath challenges this notion of American “individualism.” In fact, he argues, the nineteenth-century American labor movement was much like Europe’s labor movements in its social and political outlook, but in the decades around the turn of the century, the prevailing attitude of American trade unionists changed. Forbath shows that, over time, struggles with the courts and the legal order were crucial to reshaping labor’s outlook, driving the labor movement to temper its radical goals.
A very distinguished work… Forbath derives bold and original conclusions…and is sensitive to the political and social context in which law functions… His book is right and relevant today.
This work is nothing less than a full-scale reinterpretation of the making of American pure-and-simple unionism. Forbath’s book is certain to provoke lively and health-giving debate; it will be required reading for all students of American labor history.
In this admirable synthesis of legal and social history, Forbath reconstructs in brilliant detail the bitter drama of the most violent years of U.S. labor relations, the era of the labor injunction… It effectively replaces Frankfurter and Greene’s classic of 1930 on labor injunctions as the standard work on the subject.
- Harvard University Press
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