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The Cambridge Handbook of Labor and Democracy
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Book description

We are currently witnessing some of the greatest challenges to democratic regimes since the 1930s, with democratic institutions losing ground in numerous countries throughout the world. At the same time organized labor has been under assault worldwide, with steep declines in union density rates. In this timely handbook, scholars in law, political science, history, and sociology explore the role of organized labor and the working class in the historical construction of democracy. They analyze recent patterns of democratic erosion, examining its relationship to the political weakening of organized labor and, in several cases, the political alliances forged by workers in contexts of nationalist or populist political mobilization. The volume breaks new ground in providing cross-regional perspectives on labor and democracy in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Beyond academia, this volume is essential reading for policymakers and practitioners concerned with the relationship between labor and democracy.


'Building on historical analyses of the role of labor in constructing democracy, this most timely and insightful volume explores how globalized capitalism has endangered unions and created conditions eroding democracy the world over. At the same time, it offers compelling advice on how unions can fight these trends through new alliances and forms of mobilization.'

Evelyne Huber - Morehead Alumni Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

'Mounting economic inequality; deeply eroded democracy; growing oligarchy and authoritarianism. Labor and Democracy drives home an essential insight about these intertwined crises: You cannot understand how we got in these dire straits - or how we just might reach a better place, without putting a spotlight on organized labor. And you could not ask for a better set of scholars to do the job. These are our premier historians, political scientists, sociologists and labor and employment law scholars, when it comes to thinking large about these problems. Their essays demonstrate how unions have been engines of democracy; how weakening them has helped fuel the rise of oligarchy and authoritarianism; and finally, how law, policy and movement strategies can rebuild organized labor in ways attuned to overcoming ethno-racial divisions, the dilemmas of fissured and precarious work, and the persistent, structural inequities attending care work.'

William E. Forbath - Lloyd M. Bentsen Chair in Law, Associate Dean of Research, School of Law, Professor of History, University of Texas, Austin

'Is there a connection between current populist challenges to democracy and earlier troubles of trade unions in maintaining collective worker voice and bargaining? If you have wondered what we know about labor in democracy and what might strengthen democracy at work and in politics, this is the book for you. You will find analyses with which you agree and analyses with which you disagree and hopefully be energized to do more to fight for our rights as citizens and workers.'

Richard B. Freeman - Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University and Co-Director of the Labor and Worklife Program at the Harvard Law School

'What does democracy mean in the absence of freedom, justice and equality? Rather than assume workplace democracy, this incisive collection unflinchingly interrogates the active construction of democratic regress. Yet this volume is alive to the potential of this moment, and filled with democratic reimagining for labor writ large. It could hardly be timelier.'

Adelle Blackett - Professor of Law & Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development, Director, Labour Law & Development Research Laboratory, Faculty of Law, McGill University

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