The Spiral of the American Labor Movement

N. W. Harter

DOI: 10.2190/0K01-4QRU-RGF4-6V93


Individual employment rights emerge from a legal context dependent on political and cultural change. An understanding of these rights is served by an understanding of their evolution. Historian Eric Voegelin attempted to trace changes in American labor policy from the dawn of the industrial revolution, from a dominant "frontier ethos" toward the prevailing "New Deal ethos." In so doing, he suggested the direction that American policy has since taken toward governmental regulation, centralized bureaucracy, and the increasing role of experts and intellectuals. The purpose of this brief essay is to describe the trajectory of American labor policy in order to explain existing rights and predict those trends that will shape the individual employment rights of tomorrow.

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