Barry Eidlin

Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada

Cambridge University Press 2018

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network June 5, 2018 Sarah E. Patterson

How do unions and ideas around labor compare between the U.S. and Canada? And how did they come to be as they are today?...

How do unions and ideas around labor compare between the U.S. and Canada? And how did they come to be as they are today? In his new book, Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Barry Eidlin uses a variety of sources, including archives, to construct a comprehensive picture of the historical development of labor and unions in both countries. The book explores individual and structural explanations including the rise of service sector jobs as well as geographical shifts and preferences for unions. Eidlin also explores policy explanations in each country in turn, highlighting important cases and issues like the importance of the first contracts drafted between unions and management. He finds that political institutions, national character, internal union characteristics, and racial divisions help explain differences between the two countries. The book also breaks down trends over time, from party-class alliances in the US and Canada between 1932 -1948 followed by analysis of the period from 1946-1972. Eidlin brings it all together by focusing on class and regime structures from 1911 to 2016. In the conclusion, Eidlin gives general takeaways from the historical data but also leaves the reader with some road maps going forward.

This book will be of interest to sociologists broadly, but especially those interested in labor and unions. This book would fit perfectly in a graduate level sociology of work class, or one focused on labor history.


Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoc at the University of Western Ontario. You can tweet her at @spattersearch.

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