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HSTAA 353 A: Class, Labor, and American Capitalism

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
James Gregory
James Gregory

Syllabus Description:

Professor James Gregory


Emma Hinchliffe (TA)




This is a remote class. Lectures will be recorded and can be viewed when convenient. Wednesday 1:30 and 2:30 discussion meetings will not be recorded. Participation is required. If you anticipate problems, it would be best to find an alternative course. HSTAA 353 earns w-credit and satisfies the diversity and I&S requirements. It is a core course for the Labor Studies minor

Weekly schedules:

  • Sunday: week’s lectures, videos, and reading questions will be posted
  • Monday 1:30: voluntary zoom meeting for open discussion of lectures, assignments, or any other issues
  • Wednesday 1:30:  Group A and Group B mandatory 45 minute zoom discussion of readings and lectures.  Please inform professor if you cannot attend.
  • Wednesday 2:30:  Group C and Group D mandatory 45 minute zoom discussion of readings and lectures. 

For week by week access to assignments, recorded lectures, film clips, and readings go to the the PAGES link 

The course explores themes of work, class, and labor movements along with the history of American capitalism. The stages of American capitalism and class formation, changes in racial, ethnic, and gender relations and in the values of work, leisure, and consumerism are among the issues to be considered. The course is also about the politics of labor and class. Attempts to organize working people into labor unions or political parties date back to the 1820s. We will explore the many faces of organized labor and American radicalism while seeking to understand what is said to be America's unique hostility to class-based ideologies and organizations. The course concludes with a consideration of contemporary patterns of social inequality and the current state of organized labor.


  • Chrystia Freeeland, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
  • James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America
  • Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart
  • Jonathan Rosenblum, Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement


Midterm, final, 8-10 page research paper, weekly reading responses, discussions.  They will be weighted as follows: midterm (20%), final (25%), research paper (35%), reading responses & Wednesday discussions (20%).  All assignments will checked by SimCheck by TurnItIn for indications of copying or plagiarism.


  • Project description (one-page): April 21 (Wednesday) 
  • Midterm: April 28 (Wednesday)
  • Research paper due: May 26  soft deadline;  Friday May 28 before midnight is the firm deadline
  • Final exam:  June 7 (Monday) 2:30-4:20


An 8-10 page paper (at least 2,500 words) counts for 35% of the course grade. A one-page description of your project is due April 21.

Research papers must address an approved topic and utilize both secondary and primary sources. In view of current events, some of the possible topics will concern previous economic, political, and health crises, notably the Great Depression, the Great Recession, the 1918 flu pandemic, American Fascist and xenophobic movements.  Other approved topics include the following: Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), unemployed movements 1930s, Women's activism in the 1930s, Black labor activism in the same period, Knights of Labor and anti-Chinese movement 1880s, Emma Goldman and Mother Earth magazine, Seattle General strike and the 1919 strike wave.

A list and description of topics will soon be available here:  RESEARCH PROJECTS & sample papers 

SCHEDULE OF LECTURES & READINGS (click links for weekly assignments)

Week 1: ( no reading assignment)
Thinking about class
Thinking about capitalism and labor

Week 2: (read Freeland, Plutocrats, all chapters except chapter 3) 
Industrial revolutions
Work and opportunity in 19th century America

 Week 3: (read Green, Death in Haymarket,  pp. 1-159 through chapter 9 ) 
Chicago: Gateway to an industrializing America 
“1877: The Grand Army of Starvation”

 Week 4: (read Green, Death in Haymarket,  160-320 chapter 10-end)
Varieties of radicalism: Socialism, Anarchism, Cooperation
Knights of Labor vs. American Federation of Labor

Week 5 : (readings for research projects)  
Political economy of race and immigration

Week 6 : (readings for research projects; begin Bulosan, America is in the Heart)  
Born Red: Washington State’s radical labor heritage 
Managerial Revolutions and the Era of Corporate Capitalism 1890-1930

 Week 7: (read Bulosan, America is in the Heart, 1-153 through ch XX)  
Gender at work: sexual divisions of labor
Financial crises: The Great Depression and Great Recession

Week 8: (read Bulosan, America is in the Heart, 154-327 chapter XXI-end)
Towards Balanced Capitalism
The Wagner Act and the rise of the CIO

Week 9: (read Rosenblum, Beyond $15, 1-109 though ch6
Taming Labor: From social movement to business unionism
The Great Dismantling: From balanced capitalism to globalized financialized capitalism

Week 10: (read Rosenblum, Beyond $15, 110-195 chapter 7-end)
Deindustrialization and the new labor movement
Political economy, class, and race in the 21st century 

Catalog Description: 
The history of workers and class formation form early industrialization to the present. Emphasizes the interaction of class with race, ethnicity, gender, and political culture within the context of American economic development. Explores the role of unions, labor politics, and radical movements.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
September 29, 2021 - 9:53pm