Laboring for Freedom: A New Look at the History of Labor in America

Synopsis

Laboring for Freedom examines the concept of freedom in the context of American labor history. Nine chronological essays develop themes which show that "liberty of contract" and "inalienable rights" form two contradictory traditions concerning freedom: one tradition insists that liberty involves the expression of individual will with regard to one's property (i.e. one's labor); the second tradition holds that there are fundamental rights of man that must neither be taken away by the state nor surrendered by the individual. The tensions between these two concepts are traced in the book. Topics covered include republican independence, corporate paternalism, the compromises of collective bargaining, and human rights in a global economy. The book argues that ultimately freedom is best analyzed as a changing set of constraints, rather than an attainable ideal.

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