The Anthropology of Labor Unions

University Press of Colorado
Free sample

The Anthropology of Labor Unions presents ethnographic data and analysis in eight case studies from several very diverse industries. It covers a wide range of topics, from the role of women and community in strikes to the importance of place in organization, and addresses global concerns with studies from Mexico and Malawu.

Union-organized workplaces consistently afford workers higher wages and better pensions, benefits, and health coverage than their nonunion counterparts. In addition, women and minorities who belong to unions are more likely to receive higher wages and benefits than their nonunion peers. Given the economic advantages of union membership, one might expect to see higher rates of organization across industries, but labor affiliation is at an all-time low. What accounts for this discrepancy?

The contributors in this volume provide a variety of perspectives on this paradox, including discussions of approaches to and findings on the histories, cultures, and practices of organized labor. They also address substantive issues such as race, class, gender, age, generation, ethnicity, health and safety concerns, corporate co-optation of unions, and the cultural context of union-management relationships.

The first to bring together anthropological case studies of labor unions, this volume will appeal to cultural anthropologists, social scientists, sociologists, and those interested in labor studies and labor movements.

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About the author

E. Paul Durrenberger is professor emeritus of anthropology at Penn State University and is the coauthor of several related books. Karaleah S. Reichart is an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University Press of Colorado
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Published on
May 15, 2012
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9781607320432
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Labor & Industrial Relations
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Anthropology / General
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Presenting prehistoric, historic, and ethnographic data from Mongolia, China, Iceland, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States, The Anthropological Study of Class and Consciousness offers a first step toward examining class as a central issue within anthropology. Contributors to this volume use the methods of historical materialism, cultural ecology, and political ecology to understand the realities of class and how they evolve.

Five central ideas unify the collection: the objective basis for class in different social orders; people's understanding of class in relation to race and gender; the relation of ideologies of class to realities of class; the U.S. managerial middle-class denial of class and emphasis on meritocracy in relation to increasing economic insecurity; and personal responses to economic insecurity and their political implications.

Anthropologists who want to understand the nature and dynamics of culture must also understand the nature and dynamics of class. The Anthropological Study of Class and Consciousness addresses the role of the concept of class as an analytical construct in anthropology and how it relates to culture. Although issues of social hierarchy have been studied in anthropology, class has not often been considered as a central element. Yet a better understanding of its role in shaping culture, consciousness, and people's awareness of their social and natural world would in turn lead to better understanding of major trends in social evolution as well as contemporary society. This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of anthropology, labor studies, ethnohistory, and sociology.

From 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a captivating account of how "a skinny Asian kid from upstate" became a successful entrepreneur, only to find a new mission: calling attention to the urgent steps America must take, including Universal Basic Income, to stabilize our economy amid rapid technological change and automation.

The shift toward automation is about to create a tsunami of unemployment. Not in the distant future--now. One recent estimate predicts 45 million American workers will lose their jobs within the next twelve years--jobs that won't be replaced. In a future marked by restlessness and chronic unemployment, what will happen to American society?

In The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang paints a dire portrait of the American economy. Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans' livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills. The future looks dire-but is it unavoidable?

In The War on Normal People, Yang imagines a different future--one in which having a job is distinct from the capacity to prosper and seek fulfillment. At this vision's core is Universal Basic Income, the concept of providing all citizens with a guaranteed income-and one that is rapidly gaining popularity among forward-thinking politicians and economists. Yang proposes that UBI is an essential step toward a new, more durable kind of economy, one he calls "human capitalism."
In this first-ever collection of labor anthropology from around the world, the contributors to Uncertain Times assert that traditional labor unions have been co-opted by neoliberal policies of corporate capital and have become service organizations rather than drivers of social movements. The current structure of labor unions facilitates corporations’ need for a stable labor force while reducing their power to prevent outsourcing, subcontracting, and other methods of undercutting worker security and union power. Through case studies from Switzerland, Israel, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, Greece, Sweden,Turkey, Brazil and Spain, the authors demonstrate that this process of neutering unions has been uneven across time and space. They also show that the potential exists for renewed union power based on more vociferous and creative collective action. These firsthand accounts—from activist anthropologists in the trenches as union members and staff, as well as academics analyzing policy, law, worker organizing, and community impact—illustrate the many approaches that workers around the world are taking to reclaim their rights in this ever-shifting labor landscape.

Uncertain Times is the first book to use this crucial comparative, ethnographic approach for understanding the new rules of the global labor struggle and the power workers have to change those rules. The volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of anthropology, sociology of work, and labor studies; labor union leadership; and others interested in developing innovative methods for organizing working people, fomenting class consciousness, and expanding social movements.

Contributors: Alpkan Birelma, Emma Braden, Maria Eugenia de la O, Christopher Kelley, Staffan Löfving, Gadi Nissim, Darcy Pan, Steven Payne, Alicia Reigada, Julia Soul, Manos Spyridakis, Christian Zlolniski

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