Robert Ovetz, "Workers' Inquiry and Global Class Struggle: Strategies, Tactics, Objectives" (Pluto Press, 2021)


"The point of studying the world – including the past and other’s writings – is not just to understand it but to use that understanding to change it."

Harry Cleaver (33 Lessons from Capital – On Reading Marx Politically)

Listening to Robert Ovetz explain the origins of his interest in the study of labor and his academic influences I was reminded of the title of the late A.O. Hirschman’s book A Propensity for Self-Subversion – you’ll know what I mean even though Robert uses the phrase ‘suicide pact for my academic career’!

Seriously though, for those unfamiliar with Professor Ovetz’s engaging first book, When Workers Shot Back – Class Conflict from 1877 to 1921, the Hirschman reference is just a hint at the breadth of the professor’s experiences beyond academia that bring much to bear to his insightful and active approach to writing and labor studies. He has worked in politics and as a public policy advocate including as an aide for members of the Texas legislature, executive director of an NGO, and as a campaign director and policy advocate for other non-governmental organizations on debt, development, human rights, and ocean conservation issues. Robert has appeared on NPR, CNN, and the BBC and is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Labor and Society.

Most recently he edited and contributed to Workers’ Inquiry and Global Class Struggle: Strategies, Tactics, Objectives published by Pluto Press in 2020. We talk about both books and endeavor to connect the theory with the methodology as exemplified in this edited volume of research from both academic and activist contributing authors representing labor studies from nine different countries over multiple industry sectors. In the course of the conversation Robert confirms the relevance and value of a ‘worker’s inquiry’ while broadening our understanding of class composition and struggle both historically and through recent developments with Amazon in our own global gilded age.

Robert Ovetz is a lecturer in Political Science and the graduate program in Public Administration at San Jose State University.

Keith Krueger lectures at the SILC Business School – Shanghai University.

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