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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ellis Goldberg
HIST 249
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Labor Studies

Conceptual and theoretical issues in the study of labor and work. Role of labor in national and international politics. Formation of labor movements. Historical and contemporary role of labor in the modern world. Offered: jointly with POL S 249/SOC 266.

Class description

In this interdisciplinary course we explore conceptual and theoretical issues in the study of labor and work. We begin with the idea that free labor is the foundation on which all other modern concepts of freedom-political, civil, and social-are built and that "free labor" requires an ethical commitment to human existence which is not itself explained by economic notions of efficiency or progress. We then consider a range of perspectives on the formation and organization of labor, including the role of trade unions, in different industries, national settings, and historical periods. We shall discuss the effect of changes in the labor process and in the international political economy on the nature of the working day, patterns of unemployment, and the racial, gender, and skill composition of the labor force as well as on the forms of collective action by workers. Finally, we shall investigate the ways actions by workers affect and are constrained by their employers, their governments, their environments, their national economies, and the global economy. Consideration of applied settings in the local area will supplement the readings to clarify the relationship between theory and the actual experience of work and unions.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

Because the aim is to introduce students to a broad and vast subject, we shall be using films, service learning, and independent research projects in addition to the normal reading requirements and classroom lectures.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Moran Tompkins
Date: 10/24/2002