Ranging widely in tone and topic, this issue contains a German and Brazilian twist. With a new take on the ethic of “functional autonomy” that David Montgomery associated with skilled metal trades workers, Rachel Miller identifies the core aspects of nineteenth-century working-class solidarity with the orchestra ensembles of professional musicians. Following the workplace conflicts of New York City's Musical Mutual Protective Union, most of whose members were German American, in the 1860s, she discovers that the musicians’ fierce dedication to the “mutual subordination and blending of instruments” in pursuit of a disciplined performance carried a political valence as well. Defending their “price list,” barring nonmembers from orchestra privileges, and upholding the “substitute system” that maximized their income all figured as major concerns of musical trade unionists, who self-consciously compared their work to that of skilled tailors. The latter-day accolade of being a good “blue-collar” player (most commonly associated with the...
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Leon Fink; Editor's Introduction. Labor 1 September 2021; 18 (3): 1–3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-9061353
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