Welcome to Reuben Roth's Sociology of Work and Education Website

Listed in Google's Directory of Sociologists
Working Life
Academic Interests
What's Embourgeoisement?
Informal Learning
Academic Papers
Course Outlines, Assignments, Readings
Personal Bio

Greetings, I'm a Professor Emeritus whose specializations are Sociology of Education, Work, Health & Safety, and Labour Studies.

This website is where I allow public access to some of my past and current writing and research on the sociology of work and the workplace, social class and stratification, economic and social inequality, the Canadian working-class in its many forms (social, political, cultural, etc.), progressive labour economics, political sociology and the continuing effects of industrialization and postindustrial capitalism on people's everyday lives.


I taught Sociology and Labour Studies at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Canada (2005-2021) and Trent University in Peterborough and Oshawa, Ontario (2001-2005). I have also been a Research Associate and Senior Researcher at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (1995-2003) and York University (2002-2005). At York's Centre for Research on Work and Society (CRWS) and OISE/UT's Centre for the Study of Education and Work (CSEW) I administered several large SSHRC grants related to informal learning, non-formal education, the workplace, shifting labour markets in the current 'new economy' and educational outcomes and their relation to the labour market.


My doctoral research focused on the automobile assembly line workers at General Motors of Canada in Oshawa, Ontario. This is the largest auto assembly plant in Canada, and was once among the largest in the world. In my dissertation, entitled "Oshawa Autoworkers: Social Integration and Oppositional Class Consciousness Among the Unionized Workers of General Motors" I examine three things: (1) images of Canadian class society among autoworkers; (2) notions of working-class self-identity among Oshawa autoworkers; and (3) Oppositional working-class consciousness among autoworkers. In sum, I conclude that the experience of the assembly line and role of radical union education programmes has a lot to do with findings of "oppositional proletarian consciousness" among my sample group.


The term for a change in political class consciousness, notably one that shifts from a 'proletarian-revolutionary' makeup to a 'bourgeois-middle class' variety, is embourgeoisement, which is defined by Abercrombie et al. (1988) as "an explanation of declining working-class support for radical political movements, as the result of increased affluence causing workers to adopt middle-class (bourgeois) values and life-styles." The collapse of British Labour Party votes during the 1950s propelled Goldthorpe et al. in their quest to answer the question of whether postwar affluence had spurred the embourgeoisement of the British working masses. The same question is often asked of Oshawa's General Motors autoworkers, which is the reason I pursue this topic so doggedly. Almost two decades after the initial study Goldthorpe wrote:

There has always been a political underplot involved in this idea [that the working class has been obliterated as both a social and political force]. ... The claim that the working class is in decline has been used to justify the[ir] strategy of a 'broad democratic alliance' against Thatcherism stretching as far rightwards as the SDP-Liberal Alliance. [This]... definition of class which focuses on consumption is therefore likely to lead to a belief in the dissapearance of class antagonisms and the merging of working and middle classes. Those who argued, after labour had suffered three successive electoral defeats in the 1950s, that the working class was undergoing 'embourgeoisement' --becoming middle class-- appealed to the evidence of manual workers' greater affluence and changed lifestyles (Goldthorpe, 1987: 3).

Here's a Canadian illustration of embourgeoisement. Michael Breaugh, the successor to former New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Ed Broadbent's seat in the House of Commons, was Oshawa's provincial MPP, and federal MP during the 1980s and early 90s. Below Breaugh speaks candidly about Oshawa autoworkers' lack of support for the social democratic NDP. This is from the CBC radio program "The House" (CBC Radio One broadcast, July 24, 1999):

If they are an hourly-rated worker..they're going to be making good money by anybody's standards, sixty five to seventy five thousand, in that range. If they are a skilled tradesman (sic), then they will be much in demand and they will probably be into six figures. These are people who have at least two cars brand new probably got a boat, probably got a camper, probably got a cottage. These people are concerned about how they accumulate wealth, how they hold onto it; taxation is a big problem..

On the surface this sounds like a concrete illustration of the concept, doesn't it? Embourgeoisement is often cited (whether in name or otherwise) as the chief cause for the failure of political parties or workers' movements.

In my dissertation I selectively tested portions of Michael Mann's (1973) thesis among General Motors autoworkers, but I primarily engage in an examination of these workers' proletarian class consciousness. Basically I'm asking the questions "have industrial workers in Ontario adopted the tenets of capital accumulation?", "where has the (archetypical) alientated working-class (as outlined by Blauner, 1964) gone?" and latterly, "has a labour aristocracy formed among the ranks of General Motors/CAW autoworkers?"

I use my own prior industrial work experiences, and especially my auto assembly experiences, to ground much of what I write. I most often use social analysis within an historical-materialist framework and conduct my analysis using 'reflexive' thinking, which is the process of reflecting on the experiences we relate critically (reflecting on reflections); the application of theory to our own lives, or the use of personal experience to 'produce' sociological knowledge. In many of my papers I am quite critical of the hyper-rationalized Taylorist production-line used in auto plants, and I'm an advocate for broadening the recognition of the indigenous learning that working-class --and other dispossessed people-- do.

Lastly, I employ the sociological paradigm of social conflict theory, which has an undeservedly negative reputation. Rather than judge this perspective as needlessly negative, the conflict paradigm (and critical sociology) allows us to analyze social phenomena constructively. I plan to write more about this and post it here sometime in the future.


Too often "informal learning" is collapsed into the meaningless, but hopeful phrase "lifelong learning". This is a dubious tag that can mean all things to all people. Of course it rarely takes into account indigenous forms of learning as legitimate and recognized (via credits) forms of learning. Unfortunately, the recognition of 'informal learning' is not only unheralded in our society, but it's actively discouraged; as a result of this practice -- and the economic power relations which are still intimately based on the relations of production -- working-class people are typically downtrodden, dispossessed and disenfranchised, a condition that doesn't promise to cease very soon.

I'm also a critic of the way our public schools treat people who fall outside of traditionally powerful (read: white, middle-class) social groups. I'm a strong supporter of our public education system, but acknowledge that it needs a drastic overhaul in terms of equity. I suggest works like Paul Willis' Learning to Labour or Tom Dunk's It's a Working Man's Town, for those who want some background reading on this matter, or see my M.A. thesis, Kitchen Economic for the Family: Paid Education Leave and the Canadian Auto Workers union.

My research interests include the following: working-class ethnography, class schemas and working-class consciousness, social inequality in terms of social class, race and gender; labour process theory; the working-class in its historical, cultural and political forms; public social policy; educational democracy and informal learning, the national question as it relates to Quebec and Palestine; labour education (current forms and future possibilities); workplace health and safety; Canadian social relations; trade unionism in Canada and its relationship to social democracy and the promotion and development of sociology as an academic discipline (a somewhat traditional carrying-on of the original 'sociological project' initiated by St. Simon and Compte).

I enjoy reading essays that critically examine class and labour issues in Canada and the U.S. and the ongoing developments in the labour and social democratic movements of the industrial West. I'm a member of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP), the American Sociological Association (ASA), the Association of Humanist Sociologists, and the Canadian Sociology Assocation (CSA).


Below are some papers I've written over the years. This list has grown considerably since I started this webpage in 1997 and is a resource for sociology, social sciences, labour (labor) studies, business, and human resources students, among others. I'll describe a few papers here, but feel free to explore them all. One is an essay I wrote on the Canadian Auto Workers' (CAW) form of 'social unionism' -- a challengenging alternative to the 'business union' model. Another is an early paper and addresses the 'ultra Taylorist' Japanese Kaizen HR process also known as 'Lean Production', 'Lean Manufacturing' or 'Japanese Production Management' (JPM). There's also an essay in which I use Dorothy Smith's critical investigative technique of 'textual analysis' to examine a specific General Motors - CAW document. This document was a signed agreement between a district committeeperson and local management which addressed modified work rules on the GM Oshawa assembly line. I've also included a short essay on the relationship between the unionized working-class autoworkers of Oshawa and the social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP). One essay that is a personal favorite is a sociological explanation for the shootings at high-schools in Columbine, Colorado and Tabor, Alberta. I wrote it to my children (young at the time) when they asked me why schoolchildren in Canada and the U.S. were shooting at one another and then committing suicide. This is an example of how sociology is relevant to everyday events and can have great explanatory power. I've also included several initial drafts of my Ph.D. dissertation on social class imagery, class identity and oppositional class consciousness among Unifor Local 222 members (formerly Canadian Auto Workers Local 222), who work at General Motors. Lastly, there's a related bibliography which needs updating but is a great resource for students and researchers.

For my doctoral dissertation, I distributed over a hundred (N=102) survey questionnaires aimed at General Motors/CAW Local 222 workers between mid-2000 and early 2001. During the course of this work I developed an interview questionnaire that I've used to explore the question of working-class consciousness with a small group of autoworkers who responded to the original survey. My research has already yielded much fresh data on present-day worker attitudes and their relation to class identification and oppositional class consciousness and I hope to publish it in book form sometime in the not-too-distant future. Currently I hope to extend my research to Sudbury mine and smelter workers and non-unionized Toyota workers at Cambridge, Ontario.

Your comments on my posted papers (below) are always welcome. I'm also eager to hear from others conducting research in similar areas.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you're a student quoting these essays I ask that you give me proper academic citation. Besides, many of my papers include my own personal experiences of assembly-work, based on my seven years on the General Motors assembly-line, so there seems little point in trying to pass these off as your own. All are protected by copyright.

Feel free to drop by every now and then to see what other new papers I've added.


Chapter One of my doctoral dissertation 'Oshawa Autoworkers: Social Integration and Oppositional Class Consciousness Among the Unionized Workers of General Motors'

Lean Manufacturing in the Auto Industry: Kaizening Ourselves to Death On Lean Manufacturing at General Motors, Oshawa (Ontario, Canada)

"Notice to Departments 91 and 92 Employees": An Institutional Ethnography

Here is my August 24, 1994 individual presentation to the Ontario Government's Standing Committee on Resources Development on Bill 165, the Workers' Compensation and Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act.

Lecture to York U. Labour Studies Course 'Workplace Alienation and Union Activism at General Motors, Oshawa'

The Rise of Precariousness in Canada's Nickel Mining Industry

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Hidden Knowledge: Organized Labour in the Information Age. This link takes you to an excerpt from the book's introduction. I co-authored a chapter (with D.W. Livingstone) on the learning experiences and learning capacities of Oshawa autoworkers. This is based on research I conducted for David Livingstone's "Working-Class Learning Strategies" project from 1994-2001.

Workplace Communities and Transformative Learning: Oshawa Autoworkers and the CAW

Workers' Knowledge: An Untapped Resource in the Labour Movement. By D.W. Livingstone and Reuben Roth. A paper presented to the International Conference on Union Growth, Toronto, April 30-May 1, 2001

The Canadian Auto Workers and Paid Education Leave: Social Unionism in Practice

'Kitchen Economics for the Family': Paid Education Leave and the Canadian Auto Workers Union. This is my complete (reformatted) master's thesis on the history and structure of the PEL program of the Canadian Auto Workers union. Take heed that this is a large (500+kb) WordPerfect 9.0 file. Students, please don't plagarize and do cite me properly when you quote.

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Guest lecture at York University on Social Class in the New Millennium, November 28, 2003

Oshawa Autoworkers: Social Integration or Classic Alienation? Oppositional Class Consciousness Among the Unionized Workers of General Motors" AN UPDATE!

The Wealthy Autoworker: Representations of Working-Class Consciousness Among the Unionized Workers of General Motors Canada

The Autoworkers of General Motors, Oshawa: Integration or Alienation?

Bibliography on embourgeoisement and "General Motors Autoworkers" essayA handy resource for Labour (Labor) Studies students

Oshawa Autoworkers: Social Integration and Oppositional Class Consciousness Among the Unionized Workers of General Motors -- MOCK ORAL THESIS OUTLINE -- MARCH 2002 -- NOTE THIS IS AN MS-WORD 97 DOCUMENT -- CLICK LINK TO DOWNLOAD AND OPEN OR SAVE

The Hidden Injuries of Class Revisited: Notes to a Sociology 215 lecture, Feb. 12, 2001 On socialization and social class in North America today

Literature on Social Mobility Posting to 'working-class studies' newsgroup - NB: This is an MS-Word document -- click to save or open.

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Public Perspectives on Schooling: An Overview and Analysis of Public Opinion Polling on Education (2002)- Prepared for the Atkinson Foundation Report "The Schools We Need" (2003) Ken Leithwood, Michael Fullan and Nancy Watson, co-authors



Course syllabus for LBST 1006 winter 2014

Course syllabus for LBST 3136-EL01 Social, Economic and Political Landscapes of Occupational Health and Safety

Course syllabus for LBST 3906-EL01 "Organizational Theory"

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Don't Panic: A Tourist's Guide to Sociology. A short note to introductory sociology students

Being Testwise - Lecture on Quiz and Exam-taking, September 2011

General Essay Guidelines for Prof. R. Roth. Note that although most of these suggestions are aimed at SOCI-1015 students, they also serve as my general suggestions for most student essays in all courses. Note this is an MS-Word file.

Writing a Term Paper

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Syllabus for SOCI-2296 'Sociology - Educational Issues' (Fall 2016).

The Schools We Need -- a policy paper by Leithwood, Fullan and Watson (2003), funded by Atkinson Foundation. I contributed a paper titled: “Public Perspectives on Schooling: An Overview and Analysis of Public Opinion Polling on Education” to the effort, which based a chapter on my findings."

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Winter 2017 SOCI-4076 Syllabus. Note this opens directly to a pdf file.

Winter 2016 SOCI-4086 Syllabus. Note this opens directly to a pdf file.

Lecture on how to do the first assignment for SOCI-4086 (Winter 2011), a critical article review. Note this is a pdf version of a Powerpoint file.

This is an example of what I want in a research proposal. It's from SOCI-4086, but should be used as an model at all levels.


Tutorial Presenter's List of Questions. Use these questions as a guide to usher new students through the presentation of a course reading. MS-Word File.

Why Did Teens in Columbine and Tabor (Alberta) Kill Other Teens and Commit Suicide? (an essay for my children)

Race, Gender and Class: The Identity Politics of Postmodernity or the Socialist Project?


Syllabus for the Graduate course SOCI-5216 (Fall 2014) Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. beginning September 9, 2014.

Presentation criteria for graduate students in SOCI-5216 EL01


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I currently live in Oshawa, Ontario (45 kilometres east of Toronto).

For those of you who are not familiar with the industrial city of Oshawa, it's the centre of the automobile industry in Canada (we'll see what happens after the GM Assembly Plant closure in December, 2019). Here in 'Canada's Detroit' (these days it's more like "Canada's Flint"), you'll find a concentrated group of approximately 2,400 (what was once over 25,500) hourly, unionized employees in auto parts and assembly. This is quite an 'achievement,' especially after the devestation of the industry through automation, rationalization, the dissolution of the 1965 Auto Pact, and hemispheric free trade, which all led to massive downsizing in the auto industry.

Oshawa is also the site of General Motors of Canada's Head offices and the GMC "Autoplex" -- one of the largest auto assembly complexes in the world (at one time it was second only to the massive Lada assembly plant in the old Soviet Union). At its height, the Canadian auto industry employed one of every seven working Canadians and one of every six Ontarians. Just as auto and steel dominate the U.S. economy, this area is indisputably the heart of Canada's economy. The stretch of highway between Detroit and the 'Greater Toronto Area' remains one of the busiest in North America, thanks to the auto industry. Now that General Motors has announced the closure of all assembly operations in Oshawa (at the end of 2019), the future of this industry is in peril, but hope lies in nationalization and building green vehicles. See this article for an explanation as to why it's an idea whose time has come: https://jacobinmag.com/2019/10/general-motors-nationalization-uaw-strike


This useful website discusses Oshawa's industrial history. Yes, in a comparison to England's busiest industrial city, Oshawa was once known as "The Manchester of Canada"The Manchester of Canada: Industry in Oshawa

Oshawa is home to the resplendent, 55-room, McLaughlin Mansion Parkwood. A federally recognized historic site, the Parkwood estate is one of Canada's last interwar mansions and it resonates with local history. It may interest you to know that Parkwood is one of Canada's most popular Hollywood film locations. Parkwood is one of Oshawa's 'hidden gems' and should ever find yourself in the vicinity of Oshawa you should certainly make it a point to visit this magnificent historic house. It's not simply a tribute to wealth, but a demonstration of skilled craftspeople -- the upper tier of the working-class back in the day. It's also a good reminder that the labouring classes enriched the bourgeoisie to a staggering degree -- even at the tail end of the gilded age.

In Oshawa I'm engaged in a variety of local community pursuits. I am a past Trustee of the Oshawa Public Library and I'm a supporter of the Ontario Philharmonic (formerly the Oshawa-Durham Philharmonic).

I can be reached via email at: rroth@laurentian.ca

I enjoy feedback (as you do, I'm sure).

Culture and Music

I have an interest in traditional and historical music forms, especially early American blues and folk music, such as those archived by Alan Lomax. As problematic as some claim he may be, he did record some historic and irreplacable music. Without these recordings, we'd be just a bit more impoverished than we are. /

John Coltrane: Jazz is a love of mine and John Coltrane's music is a muse. Here's 'My Favorite Things' (a Fan's homepage with discography and thesis): My Favorite Things: John Coltrane Website

Lyrics to "Early in the Mornin'" (composed by "22" and recorded by Alan Lomax) xxx

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School of Labour Studies, McMaster UniversityMcMaster's got an excellent undergraduate Labour Studies program.

York University's Work and Labour Studies ProgramYork University's Labour Studies program is the largest in Canada.

Brock University Labour Studies Program Brock's Labour Studies Program has some great people on the faculty team.

McMaster University School of Labour Studies This is the only graduate program in Labour Studies in Ontario. Highly recommended.

The Centre for Research on Work and Society (CRWS) The Centre for Research on Work and Society Located at York University, this research and dissemination centre unites university academics with trade unionists and conducts advanced research of interest to union members, academics, activists, educators, community workers, anti-globalization activists, social progressives and anyone interested in workplace-related issues. Be sure to search their extensive holdings of free online working papers.

The Centre for Working-Class Studies was the first center of its kind in the United States devoted to the study of working-class life and culture. The CWCS creates social spaces for civic and academic conversations on working-class life and culture and its intersections with race, gender, and sexuality and serves as a clearinghouse for information on working-class culture, issues, and pedagogy. More than an intellectual project, the CWCS is also engaged with the broader society, providing assistance in creating a culture of organizing and education within working-class institutions and society. The Centre for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University

The Canadian Labour Congress is Canada's national umbrella labour (trade union) body. Their website is of interest to those who wish to pursue learning about Canadian labour unions, or nonunion workers curious about unions, or those wishing to conduct research on how to join a union.

The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. We work out of a love and inspiration for people who continue to work for a better world, despite corporate media's distortions and unwillingness to cover the efforts to free humanity. Indymedia

The American Sociological Association.I've been a longtime member and I recommend it to my students and those interested in sociology.

Independent Jewish Voices Independent Jewish Voices – Canada is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the dispute in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties.

TruthdigA progressive U.S. news source, edited by Bob Schier, former L.A. Times columnist, who was fired after his columns questioned the U.S. response to 9/11.

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"The Angry Arab""The Angry Arab" is a blog written by As'ad AbuKhalil -- a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus -- and is often laced with great insight as well as acerbic humour. This site has daily links and views on events in 'Middle East' politics.

Here's a link to a great sociology website -- it's one of my very favorites. Sociosite is a wonderful reference for sociology students and others interested in the social sciences. Great sociologists, popular themes, and other resources are featured in this very dense site. Sociosite

Here is a link which is useful for students of political science or sociological theory. The Marx to Mao Page is a resource for those with a phrase (or less) they'd like to look up and read in full. Marx to Mao Page

This is a link to The C. Wright Mills Homepage, which contains excerpts from a wide range of Mills' written works. This man saved North American sociology in the late 1950s with his compelling writing and engaging work. Those academics who criticize newly-founded universities for being "too practical" (see UOIT below) should recall that C. Wright Mills had a similar plan to snatch sociology away from the elite in the late 1950s. In the end Mills struck a blow for grounded academic work, the linking of sociology with real life experiences, and was an advocate who railed against elitist dogma. C. Wright Mills Homepage

I take anti-racism seriously and make use of an active anti-racist pedagogy in the classroom, using a wide range of resources. Here is an old standby: author Peggy McIntosh's article on "White Privilege". It's a great tool that helps make racism and privilege visible to those who may not see it. It's an effective piece of thinking and writing and is a great kickoff to a classroom discussion on race at almost any level. WALL - The Work and Lifelong Learning research network WALL research network endeavours to identify gaps in workplace training and education in Canada and bring visibility to current learning and work issues and trends.

Here's a link to 'The Durkheim Pages' website. It contains detailed English-language summaries of each of Emile Durkheim's four major works, including: The Division of Labor in Society (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), Suicide (1897), and The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912). The Durkheim Pages

The Indiana University in South Bend has an excellent online roster of courses, and an excellent list of U.S. labour links Indiana University Labour Studies Program

MUSLIMEDIA.com is an independent website run by Crescent International, and features some of the best commentary on events in the Middle East by Zafar Bangash, among others. Muslim Media

The Nation has been a voice of the U.S. left since 1865. This is a progressive weekly newsmagazine that cannot be ignored. The Nation

Counterpunch is modestly self-described as "America's best political newsletter," and that may indeed be true. Edited by "The Nation" expatriate Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch is unabashedly liberal (in the American sense of the word), anti-Republican, and progressive to its core.Counterpunch

The Socialist Register, in existence since 1964 is "Compulsory reading for people who refuse to be resigned to the idea that there can be no alternative to our unacceptable society", according to Daniel Singer. Some free articles available from past issues. This is necessary annual reading.

Rabble A recommended progressive Canadian political news and analysis website.

Salon.com Smart U.S. political and cultural writing.

Common Dreams A progessive news and views source

Oshawa Historical SocietyThe Oshawa Historical Society was established to preserve Oshawa's history.

Democracy Now!A daily newscast with a different, progressive, perspective on the news. Not for your conservative uncle.

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This page has been in existence since May 7, 1997 and was last updated on June 1, 2021. Yes, I know it's ugly, but it's functional.