Book Review, Nancy MacLean, Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. pp. 496.
27 LAW & HIST. REV. 222 (2009)
2 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2016
Date Written: July 29, 2016
In her compelling and important new book, Nancy MacLean describes a fundamental transformation of postwar American society from a “culture of exclusion” to one that values race, sex, and ethnic diversity, especially in the workplace. According to MacLean, the contours of modern American society — with its cultural commitment to diversity accompanied by some continuing economic stratification — are the joint handiwork of the heroic efforts of civil rights activists and the conservative response to those efforts. In describing the always complicated and double-sided dynamic of creating a more inclusive workplace, MacLean has produced a historiographic powerhouse. At the heart of the book is MacLean’s unearthing of the hard work of women and minority activists who took advantage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, engaged the administrative machinery of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and revolutionized the American workplace. Because MacLean takes employment — rather than the flashier and better excavated ground of education, voting rights, or public accommodations — as her focus, she importantly reorients the history of civil rights. MacLean views employment as central to notions of citizenship, and she emphasizes the preeminence of workplace change in the larger civil rights struggle and in the broader transformation of American society.
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