Digital Labor

Jefferson Cowie


Jefferson Cowie holds the ILR Dean’s Professor Chair at Cornell University. Interested in class and inequality in the United States, he is the author of Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, which won the Francis Parkman and Merle Curti Prizes; Capital Moves: RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor, which won the Phillip Taft Prize for Labor History; and editor with Joseph Heathcott ofBeyond the Ruins: The Meanings of Deindustrialization. His latest book, The Long Exception: The New Deal and American History will be published by Princeton University Press. He is currently at work on a global history of the idea of the wage.

A Relevant Past for the Digital Age? A Conversation about the Burdens and Promises of Labor History for Today
This “panel” will be more of an experimental dialogue, a public discussion, between one of the most innovative labor organizers today, Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers Union, and a leading scholar of labor history, Jefferson Cowie.

Starting with some opening thoughts from the two participants, we will then move to an open, dynamic, and wide-ranging discussion about the tensions between labor’s past and its future—seen especially through questions of digital labor. Following our dialogue, we will plenty of time for questions from the audience. The focus of our attention will be on a series of questions: What might be useful to resurrect? What is holding things back? How has labor’s success limited its future? What’s new about alt-labor? What are the “suppressed historical alternatives” (as Barrington Moore put it) that we might begin to think about using to re-imagine a path forward in the present? What is genuinely new and what might have historical analogues?

The two panelists are primed to answer these questions by combining academic research and innovations in on-the-ground organizing experience.

A Relevant Past for a Digital Age?
Sat, November 15
06:15 PM - 08:00 PM

Final Reflections
Sun, November 16
11:00 AM - 11:30 AM