This book presents a fundamental reassessment of the nature of wage labor in the nineteenth century, focusing on the use of sanctions to enforce wage labor agreements. Professor Steinfeld argues that wage workers were not employees at will but were often bound to their employment by enforceable labor agreements, which employers used whenever available to manage their labor costs and supply. Modern free wage labor only came into being late in the nineteenth century, as a result of reform legislation that restricted the contract remedies employers could legally use.
Presents a fundamental reassessment of the nature of wage labor in the nineteenth century.
Introduction: free wage labor in the history of the West; Part I. American Contract Labor and English Wage Labor: The Use of Pecuniary and Nonpecuniary Pressure: 1. 'Free' contract labor in the United States: an anti-essentialist view of labor types I; 2. 'Unfree' wage labor in nineteenth-century England: an anti-essentialist view of labor types II; 3. Explaining the legal content of English wage labor; 4. Struggles over the rules: the Common Law Courts, parliament, the people, and the master and servant acts; 5. Struggles under the rules: strategic behavior and historical change in legal context; 6. Struggles to change the rules; 7. Freedom of contract and freedom of person; Part II. 'Free' and 'Unfree' Labor in the United States: 8. 'Involuntary servitude' in American fundamental law; 9. Labor contract enforcement in the American north; Conclusion.
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