Cover for rogers: Making Capitalism Safe: Work Safety and Health Regulation in America, 1880-1940. Click for larger image

Making Capitalism Safe

Work Safety and Health Regulation in America, 1880-1940

A broad, historical appraisal of the evolution of work safety and health regulation in the U.S.

Workplaces in the United States are safer today than they were 120 years ago. In this book, Donald W. Rogers attributes this improvement partly to the development in the Progressive Era of surprisingly strong state-level work safety and health regulatory agencies, a patchwork of commissions and labor departments that advanced safety law from common-law negligence to the modern system of administrative regulation.

Centering on the most important of these state agencies, the Wisconsin Industrial Commission, Rogers examines how Wisconsin's program operated in practice, what its results were, and how it compared to protective labor law arrangements in Ohio, California, New York, Illinois, and Alabama. He illuminates the achievements of these agencies, including their integration of workers compensation and commission regulation (two bedrocks of modern occupational safety law), as well as their establishment of worker-employer advisory committees, administrative safety codes, a "safety first" ethic, and "prevailing good practices" in modernizing firms. He also reveals the mixed success that these bodies met in their code enforcement efforts and industrial health initiatives.

Rogers shows how safety commissions reconciled technological progress with industrial efficiency, justice, and stability. Connecting this history to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1970, Making Capitalism Safe will revise historical understandings of state regulation, compensation insurance, and labor law politics--issues that remain pressing in our time.


"A first-rate political and legal history. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"A wonderfully interesting book. Making Capitalism Safe is full of new information on the woefully overlooked and understudied state-level industrial safety apparatus of the twentieth-century United States. This study will be required reading for scholars in fields ranging from business and political history to law, political science, and more."--John Fabian Witt, author of The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law


Donald W. Rogers is a history instructor at Central Connecticut State University and Housatonic Community College and editor of Voting and the Spirit of American Democracy: Essays on the History of Voting and Voting Rights in America.

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