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Chicago in the Age of CapitalClass, Politics, and Democracy during the Civil War and Reconstruction$
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John B. Jentz and Richard Schneirov

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036835

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036835.001.0001

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The Eight-Hour Day and the Legitimacy of Wage Labor

The Eight-Hour Day and the Legitimacy of Wage Labor

(p.81) 3 The Eight-Hour Day and the Legitimacy of Wage Labor
Chicago in the Age of Capital

John B. Jentz

Richard Schneirov

University of Illinois Press

This chapter discusses the eight-hour movement. National in scope, the movement for an eight-hour workday prompted the first public recognition of how capitalism—commonly called the “wages system” after its most obvious aspect—was affecting American social life. This public recognition came amid a generation-long national debate about slavery, free labor, and the roles of both in defining the social and economic order desired by Americans. The chapter then addresses the question of “whether time was a property that could be alienated from the self.” Those who answered “Yes” accepted the legitimacy of the labor market, at least to the point of trying to organize institutions and social life within it. People who answered “No” rejected the legitimacy of the labor market, even if they struggled to survive within it until they established an alternative to it.

Keywords:   eight-hour movement, eight-hour workday, capitalism, wages system, slavery, free labor, labor market

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