Work and Unemployment 1834-1911
It was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that policy makers starting thinking about unemployment as a structural problem of the economy that caused people to be out of work – jobs simply did not exist for people who were looking for them. Encountering Unemployment is set in this transitional moment. In "Unemployment as an Economic Category," sources that demonstrate the shift in thinking and the willingness to see people out of work "through no fault of their own" are included. Attitudes towards the unemployed changed over the course of the century, becoming somewhat less moralizing. However, the section "Citizens and Criminals" shows that the break was never clean, and there continued to be a tension between identifying the respectable unemployed as distinct from "criminals." Related to the previous section, "Classifying the Unemployed" emphasizes the many efforts to place unemployed people in categories related to their various levels of deservedness and future employability, reflecting the growing emphasis on "scientific" approaches to social problems. In "The Politics of Unemployment," sources reveal the increasing politicization of unemployed people, as they formed committees, held demonstrations, and got arrested in demanding more assistance from the government.
- 2021 selection and editorial matter, Marjorie Levine-Clark
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