Before Braverman: Harry Frankel and the American Workers' Movement


  • Bryan D. Palmer



Marxism, Labor


What was so great about Harry Braverman? The question, obviously rhetorical, elicits a predictable response in academic circles, where the author of Labor and Monopoly Capital (1974) is deservedly praised for a text that literally christened the emerging field of labor process studies. Braverman's book was rigorous in its conceptualizations, sufficiently abstract to present an argument that reached beyond particularities into generalized, universal experience, and historical and empirical enough to sustain an analysis meant to be received across disciplinary boundaries. Moreover, it bridged the academic and activist worlds of left scholarship and practice, a breeze of fresh, interpretive air that reinvigorated intellectual sensibilities and revived the study of the work process in fields such as history, sociology, economics, political science, and human geography. One of the fifty or so most important studies produced in the third quarter of the twentieth century, Labor and Monopoly Capital earned its author a remarkable reputation that, sadly, he never lived to enjoy.