The proliferation of research on the US labor movement has created opportunities for the development of theory on labor action. Such theory would account for variations in the development, structure, ideology, goals, functions, social composition, and societal impact of labor unions and, more generally, the labor movement. This review of recent sociological research focuses on two sets of enduring questions to which this research has been addressed. The first concerns the development of the U. S. labor movement—that is, its connection to industrialization; its internal organizational and ideological development; and worker predispositions to unionize and conduct strikes. The second pertains to the socioeconomic and political impact of the U.S. labor movement—i. e. its impact on worker livelihoods and life chances and social inequality, as well as its universalizing effects on the determinants of inequality; and, its impact on working class political participation and the shaping of social policy. This review concludes with suggestions for redirecting research in order to realize the growing opportunities for developing theory on labor action.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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