Jefferson Cowie recently joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University, where he moved after teaching at Cornell University for eighteen years. At Vanderbilt, he holds the James G. Stahlman Chair in American History. His work in social and political history focuses on how class, inequality, and labor shape American politics and culture.
The Nation magazine described Jefferson Cowie as “one of our most commanding interpreters of recent American experience.” His most recent book, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, draws together labor, politics, and popular culture into a vibrant narrative about the decline of class in American political culture. It received a number of “best book” awards, including two of the profession’s most prestigious: the 2011 Francis Parkman Prize for the Best Book in American History and the Merle Curti Award for the Best Book in Social and Intellectual History.
It does not take long to recognize an excellent book, and this is one. With an innovative and successful mix of labor and business history, economic geography, and gender and community studies, Jefferson Cowie writes a complex story of capital migration, class formation, and social change.”
-Frederico Romero, Journal of American History
Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
A conceptually rich and deeply humane book. Jefferson Cowie narrates how industrial workers in two nations and four different communities coped with one company’s relentless search for cheap and pliable labor. He is a rare historian who illuminated the future by explaining a vital part of the past.”
-Michael Kazin, Georgetown University
Rick Perlstein, The Nation
...so fresh, fertile and real that the only thing it resembles is itself...You just have to read it. It establishes its author as one of our most commanding interpreters of recent American experience....Cowie's accomplishment is to convey what this epic cheat felt like from the inside."
-Rick Perlstein, The Nation
Steven Colatrella, New Politics
As a work of history, [Stayin’ Alive] might be the most groundbreaking and original national history of a working class since E.P. Thompson’s Making of the English Working Class....this book is required reading for anyone looking to revive working class hopes and alternatives to America’s disastrous love story with capitalism."
-Steven Colatrella, New Politics
Joan Walsh, Salon.com
If you want to understand how we got here -- how the Democrats' New Deal coalition shattered in the 1970s, and why progressives are still picking the shrapnel out of their political hides -- you must read Jefferson Cowie's Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class...." “one of the best books of 2010."
The new book, The Great Exception, is out as of February 2016. I also accepted a new position at Vanderbilt University as the James G. Stahlman Professor of History after eighteen great years at Cornell University. Lots to look forward to.
I published a law review piece on the great exception idea in the Theoretical Inquiries in Law (open access!). I am particularly grateful for Harvard’s Benjamin Sachs for emphasizing the optimism in my framework in his introduction to the volume. My critique of the field of economics, which I originally gave at the NY Review of Books conference, came out in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review (the condescending–and firestorm generating–title of the piece is theirs, not mine).
A few episodes of CNN’s eight part documentary series on The Seventies include my thoughts. Sort of odd what they selected. Check it out if you have, you know, cable, which I don’t. You can also see my choice for Time Magazine 25 Moments that Changed America — a collection of events that really runs the gamut. Was out of my league and my pay grade, but had fun, speaking at the NYR’s happening called What’s Wrong with the Economy–and with Economics? All the luminaries from Krugman on down are captured in glorious technicolor here.