“A history of trade unionism in the united states” is a book written by Perlman Selig, one of the leading labor historians in the early twentieth century. The book is divided into three sections. The first part contains seven chapters that examine labor in the United States by commons and associates.
The chapters in this part of the book are divided into time sections of the period between 1827 and 1896. In these chapters, Perlman seeks to examine the introduction of colonial and federal rule, citizenship, trade unionism, humanitarianism, nationalization and upheaval and reorganization.
The second part of the book has the chapters 8 to 11, which look at the larger career of unionism. This part contains four chapters, which look at challenges, reformations and developments that have taken place from 1897 to the present time.
The third part of the book contains the remaining chapters, 12 to 15, which consolidate several ideas proposed by the history of labor unions. This part forms a conclusion of ideas expressed in the book. It also portrays the economic interpretation, explains the idealistic factor, elaborates on the absence of an American labor party, and explains the rise of a political and economic dictatorship by the proletariat and trade unionism.
This book was released after “history of labor”, a book that Perlman co-authored in 1918. The second part of the book “a history of trade unionism” was written as a continuation of the book mentioned above, to cover the period after 1897.
The similarity between the two books is evident since Perlman used material that was of a similar kind to that used in the preparation of the book “history of labor”. These similar materials include original sources, for example, proceedings of trade union conventions, labor and employer papers and government reports, among others.
The book is a good read as it contains a lot of special history about the recent period in the labor movement. One particular area of concern is the history of unionism in individual trades or industries, to which Perlman intends to direct the reader to additional accounts of the various phases of the subject, which he himself was out of necessity obliged to treat, though temporarily.
One concern about this book, which is similar to other books written by Perlman, is the conclusion. Like other writings, Perlman portrays American workers as being non radical. The author considers intellectuals in the US labor movement as outsiders, who aim at leading workers astray with the intention of acquiring communist visions.
The motivation to write the book can be attributed to the author’s dislike of the duty assumed by intellectuals in the US labor movement. The author did not foresee the failure of business unionism, and its replacement with social movement unionism. As a result, most of the arguments by Perlman targeted at the outsider movement leaders were not true. The home grown intellectuals played a significant role in advancing the growth and development of labor unions.
The views portrayed in the book are those of the author, and they may be influenced by his biases. Perlman is seen to be a racist, especially towards the Asians. As a result, his comprehension of the evolution of the labor movement may have been inhibited; therefore, shifting his focus to economics, as opposed to sociological factors such as ethnicity, race and status.
Although Perlman is a significant person in the development of labor history, his theoretical blinders may have led him to centre his book on striking assumptions about the growth of labor unions instead of assessing and writing about the wider social, cultural and economic tendencies in play.