The Right and Labor in America
Politics, Ideology, and Imagination
Nelson Lichtenstein and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Editors
"This volume makes a major contribution to a growing body of work on the origins of modern conservatism and the rise of the New Right. It vividly demonstrates that if antiunionism did not assume the same significance as antitaxation or Christian fundamentalism, it proved to be significant in its own right. Future scholars will have to pay heed."—Bruce Laurie, author of The Rise of Conservatism in America, 1945-2000
The legislative attack on public sector unionism that gave rise to the uproar in Wisconsin and other union strongholds in 2011 was not just a reaction to the contemporary economic difficulties faced by the government. Rather, it was the result of a longstanding political and ideological hostility to the very idea of trade unionism put forward by a conservative movement whose roots go as far back as the Haymarket Riot of 1886. The controversy in Madison and other state capitals reveals that labor's status and power has always been at the core of American conservatism, today as well as a century ago.
The Right and Labor in America explores the multifaceted history and range of conservative hostility toward unionism, opening the door to a fascinating set of individuals, movements, and institutions that help explain why, in much of the popular imagination, union leaders are always "bosses" and trade union organizers are nothing short of "thugs." The contributors to this volume explore conservative thought about unions, in particular the ideological impulses, rhetorical strategies, and political efforts that conservatives have deployed to challenge unions as a force in U.S. economic and political life over the century. Among the many contemporary books on American parties, personalities, and elections that try to explain why political disputes are so divisive, this collection of original and innovative essays is essential reading.
Nelson Lichtenstein is MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the editor of American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer teaches history at Loyola University Chicago and is Paul Mellon Fellow of American History at the University of Cambridge.