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Working-Class Formation and American Exceptionalism, Yet Again

Chapter

Abstract

I should like to revisit the approach to American exceptionalism and working class formation I cultivated in work published in the 1980s when I sought to understand why working-class identities, dispositions, and collective action at work and away from work in the United States diverged so starkly; far more so than in Britain, France, or Germany where there was a greater congruence between the rhetoric, demands, and organisational efforts of workers across the work—home divide. While the American split between patterns of class formation in workplaces outside the home and in residential communities provided my main object of analysis, I also probed a number of subsidiary historical puzzles. These included: the failure of ante-bellum artisans to transfer their leadership, language of class, or holistic consciousness to the country’s newly developing proletariat; the combination of a relatively high degree of wage-oriented labour militancy at places of work with reformist, non-militant political integration as citizens via the mechanism of cross-class political party participation in working-class urban neighbourhoods; and the comparative difficulty America’s workers had in forming and sustaining strong national working-class organisations.1

Keywords

Civil Society Class Formation Party System American History Liberal Tradition 
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Notes

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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