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State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America)

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  93 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
In a fresh and timely reinterpretation, Nelson Lichtenstein examines how trade unionism has waxed and waned in the nation's political and moral imagination, among both devoted partisans and intransigent foes. From the steel foundry to the burger-grill, from Woodrow Wilson to John Sweeney, from Homestead to Pittston, Lichtenstein weaves together a compelling matrix of ideas ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 17th 2003 by Princeton University Press (first published January 28th 2002)
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John Rivera
Sep 26, 2011 John Rivera rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book was not what I was expecting it to be but it actually exceeded my expectations nonetheless. What Lichtenstein does with this text is not provide the reader with an exhaustive history of American labor but instead aptly employs a selective history to demonstrate the ideological evolution of the American labor movement. It covers the radical roots of American labor at the turn of the century, its transformation under the New Deal, its ties and contributions to the Civil Rights movement, ...more
Jul 02, 2009 Timothy rated it really liked it
In State of the Union, Nelson Lichtenstein provides an interpretive history of American labor from approximately 1930 to 2000. By “interpretive history”, I mean that Lichtenstein’s goal was not to lay out a definitive, comprehensive labor history. Rather, his goal was to use history as a means for proposing fresh ideas about the role of labor movements in American society. This is not to suggest that Lichtenstein shirks history, or plays loose with historical events in order to support an agenda ...more
Jun 10, 2015 Jeff rated it it was amazing
It's somewhere between 4 and 5 stars tbh, but I went with 5 because the tiebreaker here is that it has an absurd number of great references to studies of particular labor-related issues. I ended up getting about 20 new books culled from these references. I think it does quite a good job of outlining the particular issues that unions in the US have faced over the past 100 years, though admittedly tons of nuances/details are glossed over (hence the references). As other reviewers have mentioned, a ...more
Mar 15, 2008 ivan rated it really liked it
Liechtenstein's history of the postwar labor movement isn't without its flaws -- most notably, silence on racial issues and the "wages of whiteness" as contributors to a splintering of union power and working-class mobilization -- but one point does stand out. As a result of the shift from group organizing to legal maintenance -- collective bargaining, the NLRB, etc. -- the responsibility for social change is given to professionals: lawyers, judges and lobbyists who have no direct stake in the o ...more
Jul 12, 2010 John rated it really liked it
Very accessible and interesting summary of 20th century American labor movement.
Stan Lanier
Nov 23, 2014 Stan Lanier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A provocative interpretive work enhanced by reading other general overviews such as Robert Zieger's & Gilbert Gall's AMERICAN WORKERS, AMERICAN UNIONS (3rd ed.)
Well researched and detailed, but often disjointed and difficult to follow.
Nov 15, 2008 Jim rated it liked it
a reasonably comprehensive and persuasive history of the rise and fall of the american labor movement.
Mar 06, 2011 ben rated it really liked it
very dense but well written. a great overview of the history and politics of Labor in the last 140 years.
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Nelson Lichtenstein is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy.
More about Nelson Lichtenstein...

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