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


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.