Advocating the Man
Joshua R. Greenberg argues that working men's conceptions of household-based masculine obligations informed organized responses to the changing economy in early nineteenth-century New York City. Rather than a particularized class consciousness as the source of working men's identity, Greenberg claims that household issues and concerns guided workplace and political reactions to the new industrial economy.
Although the contemporary breakdown of traditional artisanal households sometimes divided workers' domestic and occupational space, skilled journeymen did not ideologically, culturally, or politically experience a separate sphere of existence. As part of this household-based market engagement, working men perceived numerous obstacles to their ability to fulfill domestic responsibilities. Potential threats came in the form of financial institutions and policy, such as the power of monopolies and the proliferation of paper money. They also came in the form of competition from prison laborers and female and African American workers. In response to such threats, working men used trade unions and labor parties to champion household-based masculinity and protect their roles as breadwinners and fathers.
Consulting a diverse range of sources, Greenberg demonstrates the critical relationship between the household, the workplace, and the nascent labor movement. By placing gender at the center of his examination, he challenges existing scholarship on working men and the market revolution of the early nineteenth century and critiques gender studies that envision journeymen as rowdy stereotypes. Instead, Greenberg treats these men primarily as domestic actors, relating their involvement in politics and the workplace to their household duties and obligations.