Towards a Multi-Disciplinary Approach
Edited by Amitava Krishna Dutt and Benjamin Radcliff
Chapter 13: Labor Organization and the Quality of Life in the American States
Suzanne M. Coshow and Benjamin Radcliff Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of an extensive social scientific literature on the socio-political determinants of life satisfaction. With the refinement of the tools necessary to measure with reasonable reliability and validity how satisfied people are with their lives, it has become possible to test theoretically derived hypotheses about the observable factors that tend to make people more satisfied in some societies than others. In sum, we are capable of measuring subjective quality of life in a rigorous fashion, theorizing about the real-world conditions that determine such differences, and testing the resulting empirical predictions (for reviews, see Diener and Suh, 2000; Frey and Stutzer, 2002; Veenhoven, 1997). While extensive scholarly attention has been devoted to questions about how cultural, economic and political conditions determine differences in life satisfaction in affluent democratic countries, the literature has conspicuously failed to consider that such nations also have market economies. While the market doubtless contributes to human well-being in a variety of ways, it must also be recognized that market societies remain class societies. Simply put, modern capitalist democracies remain characterized by class and thus class conflict. This conflict is in part over the direction of public policy, but is also manifest within labor markets. The principal mechanism by which workers compete in these conflicts is, of course, through the institution of the labor union. The organization of labor is not only generally agreed to be an important phenomenon by social theorists of all persuasions, but large...
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