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Do you believe that every person willing and able to work should have a steady, decent-paying job? That, very simply, is the ""full employment alternative"" that Levison (The Working Class Majority, 1974) proposes--as against the dominant view that full employment is neither necessary (because unemployment is cushioned by compensation; because the unemployed are women or youths) nor feasible (because it would fuel inflation). Much of Levison's argument is theoretical, a criticism of both the conservative approach (upholding a free market, opposing government intervention) and the liberal reliance on fiscal and monetary policy--neither of which, he agrees can bring about full employment. But the best of the book reflects his association with the National Committee for Full Employment, a ""progressive"" coalition with strong union and minority components. He is out to demonstrate, thus, that unemployment does hurt: that it is higher than the figures show, since many--especially young blacks--are in and out of work; that most women in the labor market are not married luxury-seekers, but either heads of households themselves or obliged to supplement the family income; that most youths seeking employment are not high school students; that many persons are employed at such low wages, with such poor prospects, that they will never have an assured and adequate income; that the very nature of the job market--the dis-appearance of entry-level blue-collar jobs, the technological and geographic shifts--militates against them, however many openings are advertised in the newspapers. He is also out to exonerate unions of the charge that they disrupt the economy, and to establish them as a positive, stabilizing force--and here he notes, for one thing, that it is only because of union-negotiated attrition plans ""that the loss of jobs in declining industries [has] not appeared as a major social problem."" And to move from the present U.S. impasse to his proposed alternative--which is no more than economic policy planning, or the Humphrey-Hawkins Act with muscle--he cites the experience of Germany, England, and France: it is not correct, he points out, to vaunt Germany's ""social market economy"" as a model of laissez-faire--nor to attribute Britain's economic difficulties to socialist planning. The book is a simply-written, moderate attempt to speak for a shirt-sleeves constituency; and why not?

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan