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Elite Paramilitaries in the Gilded Age: Private Militias in Cleveland, Ohio
Larry Isaac, Vanderbilt University
Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FA-54049-08
Movements, Aesthetics, and Markets in Literary Change: Making the American Labor Problem Novel (Article) [show prizes]
Title: Movements, Aesthetics, and Markets in Literary Change: Making the American Labor Problem Novel
Author: Larry Isaac
Abstract: One path to cultural innovation in artistic and literary fields is differentiation of a genre into new subgenres. But what are the dynamics at work in such a process? This article addresses that question by identifying and explaining the emergence and trajectory of a new fiction subgenre—the American labor problem novel—during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. I make a theoretical case for the intersection of social movement fields and cultural production fields showing, through a historical sociological analysis, that this subgenre was the joint product of: (1) a shift in literary aesthetic practice resulting from the rise of realism, (2) the subgenre’s dialogical character, (3) collective contention surrounding the rise of labor movement militancy, and (4) the exigencies of literary and popular culture markets. The historical conjuncture of these processes contributed to a repository of cultural constructions of class in storied form, as novelists sought to both entertain and educate readers about the emerging realities of class-contentious industrial society. This study demonstrates the fruitfulness of merging sociology of culture theory and social movement outcome perspectives when analyzing cultural change.
Periodical Title: American Sociological Review
Policing Capital: Armed Countermovement Coalitions Against Labor in Late Nineteenth-Century Industrial Cities (Book Section)
Title: Policing Capital: Armed Countermovement Coalitions Against Labor in Late Nineteenth-Century Industrial Cities
Author: Larry Isaac
Editor: Holly McCammon
Editor: Nella Van Dyke
Abstract: Movement coalitions and states are important elements in our social movement conceptual repertoire. But the two are seldom examined relationally, as movement-state coalitions. Attention to countermovement-state coalitions is even more rare. This paper contributes to filling this latter void by illuminating a particular type of countermovement-state coalition formation process: business leaders who formed their own private militias and entered into coalitions with local governments to suppress the nascent labor movement during the late 19th-century. Examining primary and secondary evidence for several northern industrial cities during this period, I ask several key questions: How did these militias form and become allied with municipal authorities? What were the major conditions that contributed to these coalition formations? What sort of historical trajectory did these coalitions follow? Answers to these questions inform our understanding of elite countermovement-state coalition processes and how private employers and state authorities often worked in tandem in the policing of labor during its early phases as a challenging movement. The findings have important implications generally for relations between movements and institutionalized politics.
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Book Title: Strategic Alliances: Coalition Building and Social Movements
Literary Activists and Battling Books: The Labor Problem Novel as Contentious Movement Medium (Article)
Title: Literary Activists and Battling Books: The Labor Problem Novel as Contentious Movement Medium
Author: Larry Isaac
Abstract: This study extends research on varieties of social movement media by focusing on the use of literature, realist fiction. During the late 19th-century labor movement activists/sympathizers as well as movement antagonists deployed the novel—namely, the labor problem novel (LPN)—as a cultural form through which the labor problem (as then known) could be characterized both from reform and repression points of view. I do a close reading of an early “dialogical cluster” of LPNs to address three key questions: (1) Form selection—What was it about the realist novel that attracted movement (countermovement) activists/sympathizers to use it? (2) Field position of authors—What was the position of these LPN authors in relation to the movement field and the literary field? And (3) Internal structure and content—How did authors shape the internal structure and content of their stories? As intentional literary activists, authors pivoted between the movement field and literary field selecting the novel for the special powers that it possessed relative to other historically available media. In general, they produced stories with a direct good/evil binary that was attached to characters who stood for emerging social (class, gender, ethnic) categories in young industrial America. At least during the Gilded Age, the novel played an important role as medium for characterizing collective actors, dramatizing forms of action, and providing materials for claims of injustice or threats, solutions to social problems, and new social categories and collective identities, all with powerful emotional appeal and entertainment value within the context of massive social change. As such, the LPN literary formation was an important medium through which the struggle over cultural supremacy could be waged.
Periodical Title: Research in Social Movements, Conflicts, and Change
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing