About Thomas Discenna

My primary research explores different aspects of academic labor including graduate unionization efforts, contingency, undergraduate labor in the form of unpaid internships as well as the labor of the professoriate. I was President of one of the oldest collective bargaining chapters of the AAUP. In addition, I maintain an active line of research in rhetorical theory and the study of the early twentieth century German philosopher Ernst Cassirer.

Tom Discenna is Professor of Communication at Oakland University whose work examines issues of academic labor and communicative labor more broadly.

NBN Episodes hosted by Thomas:

Robert Bruno, "What Work Is" (U Illinois Press, 2024)

April 1, 2024

What Work Is

Robert Bruno
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Robert Bruno is a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he also serves as Director of the …

Alissa Quart and David Wallis, "Going for Broke: Living on the Edge in the World's Richest Country" (Haymarket, 2023)

February 28, 2024

Going for Broke

Alissa Quart and David Wallis
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Going for Broke: Living on the Edge in the World's Richest Country (Haymarket, 2023), edited by Alissa Quart, Executive Director of the Economic Hards…

Norman Hill and Velma Murphy Hill, "Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain: The Extraordinary Story of Love, Civil Rights, and Labor Activism" (Regalo Press, 2023)

February 17, 2024

Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain

Norman Hill and Velma Murphy Hill
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

The remarkable story of a couple who came together during the civil rights movement and made fighting for equality and civil and workers' rights their…

Hajar Yazdiha, "The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement" (Princeton UP, 2023)

January 30, 2024

The Struggle for the People’s King

Hajar Yazdiha
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

In the post-civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, fro…

Christopher R. Martin, "No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class" (Cornell UP, 2019)

January 7, 2024

No Longer Newsworthy

Christopher R. Martin
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Until the recent political shift pushed workers back into the media spotlight, the mainstream media had largely ignored this significant part of Ameri…

James A. Chamberlain, "Undoing Work, Rethinking Community: A Critique of the Social Function of Work" (ILR Press, 2018)

December 6, 2023

Undoing Work, Rethinking Community

James A. Chamberlain
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

This revolutionary book presents a new conception of community and the struggle against capitalism. In Undoing Work, Rethinking Community: A Critique …

Elizabeth Anderson, "Hijacked: How Neoliberalism Turned the Work Ethic against Workers and How Workers Can Take It Back" (Cambridge UP, 2023)

November 13, 2023


Elizabeth Anderson
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

What is the work ethic? Does it justify policies that promote the wealth and power of the One Percent at workers' expense? Or does it advance policies…

Vilja Hulden, "The Bosses' Union: How Employers Organized to Fight Labor Before the New Deal" (U Illinois Press, 2023)

October 15, 2023

The Bosses' Union

Vilja Hulden
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

At the opening of the twentieth century, labor strife repeatedly racked the nation. Union organization and collective bargaining briefly looked like a…

Al Davidoff, "Unionizing the Ivory Tower: Cornell Workers' Fifteen-Year Fight for Justice and a Living Wage" (ILR Press, 2023)

September 4, 2023

Unionizing the Ivory Tower

Al Davidoff
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Unionizing the Ivory Tower: Cornell Workers' Fifteen-Year Fight for Justice and a Living Wage (ILR Press, 2023) chronicles how a thousand low-paid cus…

Renyi Hong, "Passionate Work: Endurance after the Good Life" (Duke UP, 2022)

August 18, 2023

Passionate Work

Renyi Hong
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

In Passionate Work: Endurance after the Good Life (Duke UP, 2022), Renyi Hong theorizes the notion of being "passionate about your work" as an affecti…

Juliet Schor, "After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back" (U California Press, 2021)

July 17, 2023

After the Gig

Juliet Schor
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

When the "sharing economy" launched a decade ago, proponents claimed that it would transform the experience of work--giving earners flexibility, auton…

Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn, "The Autocratic Academy: Reenvisioning Rule Within America's Universities" (Duke UP, 2023)

June 10, 2023

The Autocratic Academy

Timothy V. Kaufman-Osborn
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Critics of contemporary US higher education often point to the academy’s “corporatization” as one of its defining maladies. However, in The Autocratic…

Jonathan Eig, "King: A Life" (FSG, 2023)

May 7, 2023

King: A Life

Jonathan Eig
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Vividly written and exhaustively researched, Jonathan Eig's King: A Life (FSG, 2023) is the first major biography in decades of the civil rights icon …

James Hibbard, "The Art of Cycling: Philosophy, Meaning, and a Life on Two Wheels" (Pegasus Books, 2023)

April 29, 2023

The Art of Cycling

James Hibbard
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Interweaving a deeply personal narrative of elite-level cycling and mental health struggles with an evocative history of Western philosophy from Plato…

Bradford Vivian, "Campus Misinformation: The Real Threat to Free Speech in American Higher Education" (Oxford UP, 2022)

March 15, 2023

Campus Misinformation

Bradford Vivian
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

If we listen to the politicians and pundits, college campuses have become fiercely ideological spaces where students unthinkingly endorse a liberal or…

Bruce Kuklick, "Fascism Comes to America: A Century of Obsession in Politics and Culture" (U Chicago Press, 2022)

February 8, 2023

Fascism Comes to America

Bruce Kuklick
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

From the time Mussolini took power in Italy in 1922, Americans have been obsessed with and brooded over the meaning of fascism and how it might migrat…

Ellen Cassedy , "Working 9 to 5: A Women's Movement, a Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie" (Chicago Review Press, 2022)

January 6, 2023

Working 9 to 5

Ellen Cassedy
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Today I talked to Ellen Cassedy about her new book Working 9 to 5: A Women's Movement, a Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie (Chicago Review Press, 2022…

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, "Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generations Drowning in College Debt" (Harvard UP, 2021)

December 4, 2022

Indentured Students

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

It didn't always take thirty years to pay off the cost of a bachelor's degree. In Indentured Students: How Government-Guaranteed Loans Left Generati…

Doron Taussig, "What We Mean by the American Dream: Stories We Tell about Meritocracy" (Cornell UP, 2021)

October 14, 2022

What We Mean by the American Dream

Doron Taussig
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

The American Dream is built on the idea that Americans end up roughly where we deserve to be in our working lives based on our efforts and abilities; …

Phillip B. Levine, "A Problem of Fit: How the Complexity of College Pricing Hurts Students—and Universities" (U Chicago Press, 2022)

September 6, 2022

A Problem of Fit

Phillip B. Levine
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

According to A Problem of Fit: How the Complexity of College Pricing Hurts Students—and Universities (U Chicago Press, 2022) a college education doesn…

Simon Truwant, "Cassirer and Heidegger in Davos: The Philosophical Arguments" (Cambridge UP, 2022)

August 22, 2022

Cassirer and Heidegger in Davos

Simon Truwant
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

The 1929 encounter between Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger in Davos, Switzerland is considered one of the most important intellectual debates of t…

Jason Resnikoff, "Labor's End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work" (U Illinois Press, 2021)

July 21, 2022

Labor's End

Jason Resnikoff
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Labor's End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work (U Illinois Press, 2021) traces the discourse around automation from its origins in the facto…

Lydia Wilkes et al., "Rhetoric and Guns" (Utah State UP, 2022)

June 15, 2022

Rhetoric and Guns

Lydia Wilkes, Nate Kreuter, and Ryan Skinnell
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Guns hold a complex place in American culture. Over 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence, and guns are intimately connected to issues of…

Charlie Eaton, "Bankers in the Ivory Tower: The Troubling Rise of Financiers in US Higher Education" (U Chicago Press, 2022)

May 31, 2022

Bankers in the Ivory Tower

Charlie Eaton
Hosted by Thomas Discenna

Elite colleges have long played a crucial role in maintaining social and class status in America while public universities have offered a major steppi…