Citizen Worker: The Experience of Workers in the United States with Democracy and the Free Market During the Nineteenth Century

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Cambridge University Press, Mar 31, 1995 - History - 189 pages
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In the 1990s democracy and market freedom are often discussed as though they were either synonymous or interchangeable. The experience of workers in the United States reveals that as government became more democratic, what it could do to shape daily life became more restricted. The extent and failures of workers' efforts to exercise power through the political parties provide insights and warnings from the nineteenth century to guide our thinking about the twenty-first. When industrialization began in the United States, both free and bound labor supplied commodities whose flow was dominated by merchant capital, while the legacy of the Revolution made possible the inclusion of white males from society's lower strata in the active citizenry. The voting rights and freedom of association enjoyed by working-men hastened the dismantling of personal forms of subordination, most dramatically in the brief moment when African Americans claimed those rights after the destruction of slavery. Nevertheless, neither white nor black workers fashioned the new rules for a society based on wage labor. Both the shaping of economic development and the allocation of poor relief were effectively insulated from democratic control, while new forms of social domination disguised as freely contracted market and familial relationships were sanctioned by the courts, by the newly restructured police and military forces, and by the criminalization of unemployment. Workers' use of their access to political power on behalf of their visions of the commonweal challenged, but never defeated, the new style of class rule, which both strengthened government and limited its sphere of action.

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A perceptive but pedantic look at the socioeconomic and political lot of America's 19th-century working class. Drawing on research for a lecture series given at Oxford during 1991, Montgomery (History ... Read full review


Wage Labor Bondage and Citizenship
The Right to Quit
Free Labor in the Shadow of Slavery
Quitting and Getting Paid
Citizenship and the Terms of Employment
Policing People for the Free Market
The Definition and Prosecution of Crime
The Privatization of Poor Relief
Police Powers and Workers Homes
Political Parties
Black Workers and the Republicans in the South
Industrial Workers and Party Politics
Workers and Tammany Hall
Labor Reform and Electoral Politics
Citizenship and the Unseen Hand

The Crime of Idleness
Arms and the Man

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Page 8 - Man hath his daily work of body or mind Appointed, which declares his dignity, And the regard of Heaven on all his ways; While other animals unactive range, And of their doings God takes no account. To-morrow, ere fresh morning streak the east With first approach of light, we must be risen, And at our pleasant labour, to reform Yon...
Page 8 - Thus certain experiences, meanings, and values which cannot be expressed or substantially verified in terms of the dominant culture, are nevertheless lived and practised on the basis of the residue cultural as well as social - of some previous social and cultural institution or formation.
Page 9 - The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
Page 7 - Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980); and Jan Lewis, "The Republican Wife: Virtue and Seduction in the Early Republic...

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