Political Science

Sean Monahan

Visiting Assistant Professor of Government and Law, Lafayette College
Subfield Theory
Dissertation Producing the Society of Equals: Land, Freedom, and the Right to Work in the Age of Revolutions
Committee Alex Gourevitch, Jim Morone, Corey Brettschneider


Job Market Title

The Radical "Right to Work"


While all rights have contested meanings, few have been the subject of disagreement quite as extreme as the right to work has, historically. Yet much recent literature overlooks this complexity, simply taking the right to work to mean a job guarantee. To better understand the idea’s tensions and potential, I turn toward the historical uses of the term among socialists and radical workers across the Atlantic world in the early nineteenth century. Contrary to today's usage, none of these groups took the right to work to mean the provision of wage labor. In fact, the phrase essentially expressed visions of the abolition of wage labor and the creation of new forms of working and living seen as far more conducive to freedom and happiness. Recovering these alternative meanings offers us the chance to deepen and reanimate contemporary thinking about work.