At the Blog
This week, we kicked off a symposium on Gabriel Winant’s The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America.
On Monday, Winant introduced the symposium by describing the transformation of the working class in the wake of deindustrialization. As he writes, “beginning from an intuition that we should not let deindustrialization be the end of the story of working-class formation led me paradoxically to the finding that the legacies of struggles within industrial capitalism, particularly long-lived historical institutionalizations of race and gender, continue to shape the terrain of class formation today and set the terms on which class conflict proceeds. Those terms now entrap all of us. If the pandemic has made anything clear, it is that we all depend on care workers—a dependence which has caused their numbers to grow—yet they are individually disposable.”
On Tuesday, Brishen Rogers argued that during both the era of steel and the era of healthcare, labor and employment law allocated to companies various powers they could use to impose market discipline on workers. As a result, companies in both eras put relentless downward pressure on staffing levels, eroding workers’ safety and material security.
And on Thursday, Allison Hoffman recounted the complex interactions among unions, labor and health care policies, and private and public health insurance that built today’s oversized health care complexes, as well as the low wage workforces that keep them running. As she demonstrates, a system of employer-based health benefits created not only a fragmented health care financing structure but also an extremely powerful and consolidated industry that now resists changes to that structure.