Toward a General Theory and Global History of Workers' Education

Michael Merrill, Susan J. Schurman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Workers' education, understood to mean the education of workers by workers for purposes they themselves determine, has always been highly contested terrain, just like work itself. If there is to be an adequate global history of workers' education, it will need to be guided by a suitable general theory. Hegel most expansively and Durkheim most persuasively argued that societies are cognitive and moral projects, of which education is constitutive: knowing and social being are inextricably bound up with one another. In the global democratic revolutions of the last 250 years, the labor movement distinguished itself as simultaneously a social movement, an education in democracy, and a struggle for a democratic education. The history of workers' education is a history of workers striving to remake their communities into democracies and themselves into democrats. This brief essay introduces a collection of essays representative of a new generation of scholarship on the history of workers' education, which we hope will help both traditional and emerging labor movements understand their past and think more clearly about their future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Labor and Working-Class History
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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