What’s It All About?
The Center for Study of Working Class Life is dedicated to exploring the meaning of class in today’s world. Looking at society through the lens of class clarifies many important social questions in new ways – why the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, what attacks on government programs through privatization mean, why the suburbs aren’t really a middle class haven, how the "family values" debate impacts our lives, and much more. We are an interdisciplinary effort of faculty and staff at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, founded in November, 1999.
The Center studies class mainly with tools of the social sciences, but we also pay attention to the arts. Through our gallery and tv/video pages, we highlight the work of artists who convey the many faces and circumstances of working people today. Our affiliated faculty and staff address a wide range of issues, in their own work and through various programs in the Center’s calendar.
The Center encourages an approach that recognizes the close connections between class and race, gender, and nationality. We investigate the meaning of class in the international economy. The interactions among these elements are a central consideration of Center programs.
Over the past thirty years, we in the United States have made important progress on issues of race and gender, both intellectually and in our lives, although much remains to be accomplished. Think what the world would be like if we made that kind of progress on issues of class in the next thirty years! The Center for Study of Working Class Life is dedicated to helping that process along.
What's the Difference
The Center for Study of Working Class Life is different from other centers and programs whose work is similar but complementary. The Center seeks co-operative relations with others while advancing its own distinct purposes and activities.
The Center for Working Class Studies: the CWCS at Youngstown State University is the pioneer effort in working class study. Their focus is on the arts and humanities as they can shed light on issues of class, and the working class in particular. The Center for Study of Working Class Life at Stony Brook focuses more on the contributions the social sciences can make. We see our efforts as complementary to those of the CWCS. We hope to co-ordinate major public events such as conferences and exchange ideas for research and occasional joint work.
Labor studies programs: traditionally, labor studies programs in the United States have focused on the nuts and bolts of collective bargaining and union contract administration. In the last few years, some have extended their work to field research concerning such theoretical questions as union organizing strategies, dispute resolution mechanisms, bargaining strategies, labor-management co-operation, and union and industrial democracy.
While some of these topics shed light on issues of class, labor studies programs are almost exclusively focused on unions and collective bargaining. The Center has a wider scope of interest, extending its work to the more than eighty five percent of the U.S. labor force who are not in unions, and beyond the working class as well. We hope that the increasing number of labor studies programs that seek to provide their students with a broad intellectual context for union activity will find the work of the Center for Study of Working Class Life a useful resource.