Friday, August 29, 2008
Whither labor history?
As Professor Bierce readies himself to celebrate the long weekend honoring the blue and pink-collar workers who make his life easier, he must ask (but not answer) this perplexing question. Whither labor history? The field, so hot in the 1970s and 1980s, seems to attract few of the best and brightest younger scholars. Is it that the generation of historians who came of age in the 1960s believed in the redemptive power of labor? Were those historians closer to the working-class than the pampered students who are increasingly the only who can afford today's exorbitant tuition bills, even at our best public universities? Or is labor history in need of an infusion of new methodologies, the analogue to the transformation wrought by the cultural turn in the once moribund field of diplomatic history? Your gossipy friend wonders. In any case, at a moment in our history when working-class issues have moved to the forefront of national politics, the field of labor history seems overdue for a revival.