Labor Studies

Made it official yesterday: In August I’ll be leaving DC and the fine people of Media Matters for New York City and CUNY’s Labor Studies program.

I’ll admit that labor — unlike, say, civil liberties — has not been a longstanding preoccupation of mine. It’s always be on my radar, and I’ve always been generally supportive of unions, but if you flip through this blog’s archives or my larger body of work, you’ll find barely anything on the subject. So what changed?

Several things. Wisconsin was one of them. DC was another. The longer I’ve stayed in this city the more dissatisfied I’ve become with what Mike Konczal once referred to as pity-charity liberalism. This country’s deep systemic problems cannot be solved with robust welfare programs alone. Not if those programs are still to be administered by the few, with no meaningful input from the many.

What this country then needs must be a significant rebalancing in the distribution of political power. I see no evidence that this can be achieved through what have become the conventional means for creating change. So if we’re going to expand democratic participation to a far broader swath of the citizenry, we need to first redefine what it means to participate. Surely, in an enlightened democratic republic, it is not sufficient simply to vote and mouth off from time to time.

What we need are broad-based coalitions that can provide a serious counterweight to centralized power. And I believe unions are the best model we have of how that would work.

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6 Responses

  1. Congratulations! I hope you continue to blog because I enjoy your work a great deal.

    • Thanks! And no matter what, I’ll definitely continue writing here and elsewhere.

  2. Best of luck to you, Ned!

  3. A wise man once said to me, “If you want to change politics, change the culture.” Nowhere is this more true than in labor policy. The central premises of organized labor no longer resonate with the vast majority of Americans. I see two main obstacles that need to be overcome if this is to be changed. Labor’s argument needs to be stated in a way that makes sense to a culture that is far less collectively oriented than when the labor movement was founded and then that message needs some kind of amplifiers. Whether it is new media or old, the ideas of labor need to be widely known and feel strong and correct in order for unions to gain support and ultimately, membership. Good luck.

  4. Right on, glad to hear it. Sounds like a step in the right direction

  5. [...] of the good and true thing I felt like I had finally uncovered. I still believe in the reasons I originally gave for making the move back to New York and into labor studies, though I think now I’d [...]

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