From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century

From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century

By: Alex Gourevitch (author)Paperback

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This book reconstructs how a group of nineteenth-century labor reformers appropriated and radicalized the republican tradition. These 'labor republicans' derived their definition of freedom from a long tradition of political theory dating back to the classical republics. In this tradition, to be free is to be independent of anyone else's will - to be dependent is to be a slave. Borrowing these ideas, labor republicans argued that wage laborers were unfree because of their abject dependence on their employers. Workers in a cooperative, on the other hand, were considered free because they equally and collectively controlled their work. Although these labor republicans are relatively unknown, this book details their unique, contemporary, and valuable perspective on both American history and the organization of the economy.

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About Author

Alex Gourevitch is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brown University. He has previously served as an assistant professor at McMaster University, a postdoctoral research associate for Brown University's Political Theory Project, and a College Fellow at Harvard University. Gourevitch is the co-editor of Politics without Sovereignty: A Critique of Contemporary International Relations (2007). His work has been published in Political Theory, Modern Intellectual History, Constellations, Public Culture, Philosophical Topics, and the Journal of Human Rights. He has also written for magazines such as Jacobin, Dissent, Salon, The Chronicle Review, N+1, The American Prospect, and Washington Monthly, and he is co-author of the blog The Current Moment.


Introduction: something of slavery still remains; 1. The paradox of slavery and freedom; 2. 'Independent laborers by voluntary contract': the laissez-faire republican turn; 3. 'The sword of want': free labor against wage labor; 4. Labor republicanism and the cooperative commonwealth; 5. Solidarity and selfishness: the political theory of the dependent classes; Conclusion: the freedom yet to come.

Product Details

  • publication date: 08/12/2014
  • ISBN13: 9781107663657
  • Format: Paperback
  • Number Of Pages: 220
  • ID: 9781107663657
  • weight: 350
  • ISBN10: 1107663652

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