Kathleen Thelen on Employer Organization and the Law: Historical Legacies and the Long Shadow of the American Courts

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Join us as Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT, delivers the 2021 Cadario Visiting Lecture in Public Policy. A strong and well-organized labor movement is clearly essential to achieving high levels of economic equality and shared prosperity in post-industrial political economies. However, a large comparative literature suggests that durable progress is possible only where employers too are well organized. Based on a comparison with Germany, this paper suggests that interventions by the American courts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had a profound and enduring impact on the organization, goals, and strategies of American employers – discouraging and indeed actively disarticulating forms of business organization that were emerging in this period in Europe’s more coordinated “social” market economies.

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