Racism and the making of the American working class

  • Steven Shulman
Labor, Race and the Gutman Thesis: Responses to Herbert Hill


Social Psychology Working Class American Working Political Psychology American Working Class 
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Reference notes

  1. 1.
    Herbert G. Gutman, “The Negro and the United Mine Workers of America,” reprinted in hisWork, Culture and Society (NY: Vintage Books, 1976), p. 139.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Erin Olin Wright,Class Structure and Income Determination (NY: Academic Press, 1979), p. 202.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Samuel Bowles and Richard Edwards,Understanding Capitalism: Competition, Command and Change in the U.S. Economy (NY: Harper and Row, 1985), pp. 190–192; Howard Wachtel,Labor and the American Economy (NY: Academic Press, 1984), pp. 230–233; Robert D. Cherry,Macroeconomics (Reading MA: Addison-Wesley, 1980), pp. 35–36; E.K. Hunt and Howard J. Sherman,Economics: An Introduction to Traditional and Radical Views (NY: Harper and Row, 1986), pp. 367–371.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Blaming trade union “mis” leadership is a particularly paternalistic version of the false consciousness explanation of white racism. See Robert Cherry's emotional defense of the divide-and-conquer thesis in his “Do White Workers Benefit From Racism?”,Monthly Review, December 1984, pp. 51–53; and my response in the April 1985 issue, pp. 58–59.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For example, Michael Reich concludes that “it should be possible to mobilize a coalition against racism that encompasses broad segments of the American population. To succeed, however, such efforts must indicate to whites that the achievement of racial economic equality need not occur at their cost.” See hisRacial Inequality: A Political-Economic Analysis (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 311.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Herbert Hill, “The AFL-CIO and the Black Worker: Twenty-Five Years After the Merger,”The Journal of Intergroup Relations, Spring 1982, pp. 5–79; and “Race and Ethnicity in Organized Labor: The Historical Sources of the Resistance to Affirmative Action,” forthcoming inThe Question of Discrimination: Racial Inequality and the Labor Market, Steven Shulman and William Darity, Jr., eds., Wesleyan University Press. Even as staunch a union advocate as Philip S. Foner says that “the policy and practice of organized labor so far as black workers were concerned were largely those of outright exclusion and segregation,” and characterizes the examples of racial unity in the labor movement as “the minor theme.” See hisOrganized Labor and the Black Worker 1619–1973 (NY: International Publishers, 1978), p. ix.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Virtually the only sophisticated effort to prove that white workers are hurt by racism is in Reich, op. cit. His econometrics are not only marred by misspecification and simultaneity bias (see Rhonda M. Williams, “Capital, Competition and Discrimination: A Reconsideration of Racial Earnings Inequality,”Review of Radical Political Economics, Summer 1987; and Norman R. Cloutier, “Who Gains From Racism? The Impact of Racial Inequality on White Income Distribution,”Reviews of Social Economy, October 1987), but also simply fail to address the question since his dependent variable captures inequality among whites (relative income) while the hypothesis concerns the white standard of living (absolute income). For results contrary to Reich, see my “Discrimination, Human Capital and Black-White Unemployment,”Journal of Human Resources, Summer 1987, pp. 361–376; and E. M. Beck, “Discrimination and White Economic Loss: A Time Series Examination of the Radical Model,”Social Forces, September 1980, pp. 148–168; and Cloutier, op. cit.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For a stimulating, recent example of work in this vein, see Michael Omi and Howard Winant,Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s (NY: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986).Google Scholar

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© Human Sciences Press 1989

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  • Steven Shulman

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