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Labor's Mind

A History of Working-Class Intellectual Life (Working Class in American History)

Tobias Higbie


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (12/30/2018)


Business leaders, conservative ideologues, and even some radicals of the early twentieth century dismissed working people's intellect as stunted, twisted, or altogether missing. They compared workers toiling in America's sprawling factories to animals, children, and robots. Working people regularly defied these expectations, cultivating the knowledge of experience and embracing a vibrant subculture of self-education and reading. Labor's Mind uses diaries and personal correspondence, labor college records, and a range of print and visual media to recover this social history of the working-class mind. As Higbie shows, networks of working-class learners and their middle-class allies formed nothing less than a shadow labor movement. Dispersed across the industrial landscape, this movement helped bridge conflicts within radical and progressive politics even as it trained workers for the transformative new unionism of the 1930s. Revelatory and sympathetic, Labor's Mind reclaims a forgotten chapter in working-class intellectual life while mapping present-day possibilities for labor, higher education, and digitally enabled self-study.

Praise For Labor's Mind: A History of Working-Class Intellectual Life (Working Class in American History)

"A major contribution to the history of American working people's thought and movement-building in the modern era. Brophy would be pleased." --Journal of American History

University of Illinois Press, 9780252084027, 234pp.

Publication Date: December 30, 2018

About the Author

Tobias Higbie is an associate professor of history at UCLA. He is the author of Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930.