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A Contest of IdeasCapital, Politics, and Labor$
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Nelson Lichtenstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037856

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037856.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
A Contest of Ideas

Nelson Lichtenstein

University of Illinois Press

This book presents a historical analysis that explains why the very existence of a working class requires an understanding of the institutions and individuals who presume to speak on its behalf, as well as an understanding of those who seek to contain and delegitimize the many voices that arise out of labor's world. It is not just that a new vocabulary is necessary for this work, but in a world where many of the old social democratic markers have been obscured, the rationale for collective organization at the workplace and in the polity has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Both the strike and the ballot seem to have an increasingly anemic payoff in the face of the capital mobility that pressures contemporary states to subordinate social and economic regulation to the prerogatives of enterprise. This is one reason that the contest of ideas is so important and why intellectuals of whatever pedigree are essential combatants. This introductory chapter presents the author's story of how he came to this role.

Keywords:   working class, labor history, labor movement, historical analysis, collective organization

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