In American Labor and American Democracy, William English Walling drew on his close association with Samuel Gompers and other leaders of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to write the authoritative history of the labor movement in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Walling's position was that twentieth-century American democracy was not stagnant. It was a living, developing trend in society, with the AFL as its most progressive force. There could be no passive acceptance of American institutions as they stood: government in the twentieth century would need to develop into a medium for attaining social ideals and needs beyond individual realization. The aim of American labor was a pluralistic economic democracy in which government and industry would be guided by economic organizations representing not only labor, but every essential social group. Richard Schneirov, in his introduction to this new edition of a classic book, paints a rich and detailed picture of Walling's political and intellectual journey, and of his many contributions to the synthesis of democratic and socialist principles.
American Labor and American Democracy is an important work that will help reevaluate our understanding of labor and working-class history, establish a new perspective on today's labor movement, and shed light on the relationship of labor to socialism, capitalism, democracy, and social movements; the nature of the large business corporation; and the relationship of special interest groups to democracy.
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