Work and Equality in American Political Thought
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American Political Thought

How to Cite

Work and Equality in American Political Thought. (2023). The Political Science Reviewer, 47(1), 111-140.


Attempting to explain the American attachment to work, this article examines two traditions of defending work and labor, referred to here as “egalitarian” and “inegalitarian.” Representing the egalitarian tradition are Abraham Lincoln and Wendell Berry, and representing the inegalitarian are Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Although there is overlap between the two traditions, the issue of equality separates American thinking on work and labor and reveals differing accounts of independence. Laying bare these sometimes conflicting arguments also provides an opportunity to think through contemporary issues, such as the so-called “Great Resignation.” I contend that recent trends do not suggest a giving up on work, but rather reflect the demand for work to have a particular relationship with equality.

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