Oberlin College and Conservatory

Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada: Barry Eidlin '96

Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 4:30pm

Norman C. Craig Lecture Hall, Science Center, N292
119 Woodland Street, Oberlin, OH 44074

"Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada," presented by Barry Eidlin '96, assistant professor of sociology, McGill University.

About the Lecture

Why are unions weaker in the U.S. than in Canada, despite the two countries’ socio-economic similarities? Many view this cross-border difference as a byproduct of long-standing differences in political cultures and institutions. But using detailed archival and statistical data, I find this divergence is relatively recent, resulting from different ruling party responses to working class upsurge in both countries during the Great Depression and World War II.

In Canada, an initially more hostile state response ended up embedding “the class idea”—the idea of class as a salient, legitimate political category—more deeply in policies, policies, and practices than in the U.S., where class interests were reduced to “special interests.” I illustrate this through comparative studies of party-class relations, postwar Red scares, and divergence in labor policy between the two countries.

Barry Eidlin is a comparative historical sociologist interested in the study of class, politics, social movements, and social change. His book, Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. Other research has been published in the American Sociological Review, Politics & Society, Sociology Compass, and Labor History, amount other venues. He also comments regularly in various media outlets on labor politics and policy.

Eidlin earned a BA in comparative literature and cultural studies (honors) from Oberlin, a MA and PhD in sociology  from the University of California, Berkeley.  

Sponsored by the JD Lewis Memorial Lectureship Fund and the Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving.

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Academic, Politics, Administrative, Office of Alumni Relations

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Chris Howell

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