Universities and the Future of Work: The Promise of Labor Studies, by Tobias Schulze-Cleven CSHE 7.21 (June 2021)


There continues to be widespread anxiety about the future of work. I recently proposed a labor studies perspective on how to understand and meet undeniable challenges. This follow-up paper explores the implications of my analysis for the contemporary American academy, reflecting on how labor studies can help enlist public research universities in support of building a human-centered world of work. American universities have long been intricate bundles of contradictions, but recent trends have left them at a crossroads: Will they be able to reform and connect with a progressive reading of the original land-grant vision to support a future in the interest of workers? Or will their practices further drift away from a public-serving mission as they succumb to neoliberal expectations? This paper contends that the three constitutive features of labor studies—its focus on people’s struggles, interdisciplinarity, and upholding workers’ rights—illuminate crucial steps for realizing much-needed innovations in support of revaluing both work and workers.

Tobias Schulze-Cleven
Publication date: 
June 30, 2021
Publication type: 
Research and Occasional Papers Series (ROPS)