The fight for a "living wage" has a long and revealing history as documented here by Lawrence B. Glickman. The labor movement's response to wages shows how American workers negotiated the transition from artisan to consumer, opening up new political possibilities for organized workers and creating contradictions that continue to haunt the labor movement today.Nineteenth-century workers hoped to become self-employed artisans, rather than permanent "wage slaves." After the Civil War, however, unions redefined working-class identity in consumerist terms, and demanded a wage that would reward workers commensurate with their needs as consumers. This consumerist turn in labor ideology also led workers to struggle for shorter hours and union labels.First articulated in the 1870s, the demand for a living wage was voiced increasingly by labor leaders and reformers at the turn of the century. Glickman explores the racial, ethnic, and gender implications, as white male workers defined themselves in contrast to African Americans, women, Asians, and recent European immigrants. He shows how a historical perspective on the concept of a living wage can inform our understanding of current controversies.
Lawrence B. Glickman is Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society and the editor of Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, both published by Cornell. His other books are Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America and The Cultural Turn in U.S. History: Past, Present and Future.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Rethinking Wage LaborPart I. From Wage Slavery to the Living WageChapter 1. That Curse of Modern CivilizationChapter 2. Idle Men and Fallen WomenPart II. The Social EconomyChapter 3. Defining the Living WageChapter 4. Inventing the American Standard of LivingPart III. Workers of the World, ConsumeChapter 5. Merchants of TimeChapter 6. Producers as ConsumersPart IV The Living Wage in the Twentieth CenturyChapter 7. Subsistence or Consumption? Chapter 8. The Living Wage IncorporatedCoda: Interpreting the Living Wage and ConsumptionNotes Index
What People are Saying About This
Susan Porter Benson
"This is a work of enormous range and brilliance that maps one of the great sea changes in recent history: the accommodation to wage labor and the reorientation of the discussion of citizenship, rights, race, and gender to the new realities it imposed. This is the kind of book that will have an enduring life because of the way in which it so fundamentally shifts the terms of the debates into which it enters, and those who read it will thereafter look at the worlds of work and consumption in a new way."