Bluestone, Barry A(lan) 1944-
BLUESTONE, Barry A(lan) 1944-
PERSONAL: Born December 27, 1944, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Irving Julius and Zelda (Fitch) Bluestone; married Mary Ellen Colten, June 14, 1987; children: Joshua. Ethnicity: "White, Russian grandparents." Education: University of Michigan, B.A. (economics), 1966, M.A. (economics), 1968, Ph.D. (economics), 1974. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycling, tennis.
ADDRESSES: Home—101 Trowbridge St., Cambridge, MA 02138. office—Center for Urban and Regional Policy, 339 Holmes Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, instructor, 1971-74, assistant professor, 1974-77, associate professor, 1977-82, professor of economics, 1982-86; University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, Frank L. Boyden Professor of Political Economy, 1987-98, senior fellow of John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs, founding director of Ph.D. program in public policy; Northeastern University, Boston, MA, RussellB. and Andree B. Stearns trustee/professor of political economy, 1999—, founding director of Center for Urban and Regional Policy, editorial board member, 2002-04, member of Urban Outreach Council. Director of Social Welfare Research Institute, 1977-84; Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC, founding director, 1985; Nommos Consulting Group, Salem, MA, director, 1990. Senior policy advisor to Congressman Richard Gephardt, 1995. Senior fellow of Gorbachev Foundation; member of International Center for Social Studies; served on conference for constructing new labor market statistics architecture, Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Conference Center, Italy, 2002.
MEMBER: Economic Policy Institute.
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson fellow, 1966-67; Osterweil Prize in Economics, 1966; John Eliot Parker Award in Labor Economics, 1971; outstanding merit award, University of Massachusetts, 1995; noteworthy books in industrial relations citation, Princeton University, 1993, for Negotiating the Future: A Labor Perspective on American Business; Best Academic Book Award, Choice, 2000, for The Boston Renaissance: Race, Space, and Economic Change in an American Metropolis.
(With William M. Murphy and Mary Stevenson) Low Wages and the Working Poor, Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations (Ann Arbor, MI), 1973.
(With Bennett Harrison) Capital and Communities: The Causes and Consequences of Private Disinvestment, Progressive Alliance (Washington, DC), 1980.
(With Patricia Hanna, Sarah Kuhn, and Laura Moore) The Retail Revolution: Market Transformation, Investment, and Labor in the Modern Department Store Industry, Auburn House (Westport, CT), 1981.
(With Peter Jordan and Mark Sullivan) Aircraft Industry Dynamics: An Analysis of Competition, Capital, and Labor, Auburn House (Westport, CT), 1981.
(With Bennett Harrison) The Deindustrialization of America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment, and the Dismantling of Basic Industry, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1982.
(With Bennett Harrison) The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1988.
(With father, Irving Bluestone) Negotiating the Future: A Labor Perspective on American Business, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1992.
UMass/Boston: An Economic Impact Analysis, [Boston, MA], 1993.
Economic Inequality and the Macro-Structuralist Debate, University of Massachusetts (Boston, MA), 1994.
(With Mary Huff Stevenson and Chris Tilly) Public Policy Alternatives for Dealing with the Labor Market Problems of Central City Young Adults: Implications from Current Labor Market Research, University of Massachusetts (Boston, MA), 1994.
(Editor, with Mary Huff Stevenson) The Boston Renaissance: Race, Space, and Economic Change in an American Metropolis, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Bennett Harrison) Growing Prosperity: The Battle for Growth with Equality in the Twenty-first Century, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2000.
(With Andrew Sharpe) Understanding and Improving Labor Market Statistics: A Cross-Country Comparative Study, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: (With Mary Huff Stevenson and Russell Williams) Understanding the American Metropolis: An Economic Policy Perspective, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Barry A. Bluestone is a prominent economist who has been a university professor and political advisor. One of his early works, The Deindustrialization of America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment, and the Dismantling of Basic Industry, written with Bennett Harrison, comments on the harm that American business practices inflicted on workers and the economy during the 1970s. The son of a union negotiator, Bluestone was raised in Detroit, Michigan, a strong union city, and later educated at the University of Michigan, where he further developed a sympathy for working-class Americans.
Bluestone commented in a 1983 interview with James Cook in Forbes, "The really serious employment problem, as I see it, is what I call the problem of the missing middle in the economy. In the old mill-based and smokestack industries, in terms of skill and wage level, jobs used to be distributed on a bell-shaped curve. That meant a lot of jobs in the middle, some jobs at the lower end, mostly in the nonunion supplier sectors, some jobs at the top—engineering, scientific jobs, management. What's replacing it is a concentration of jobs at either end…. I see this as a very significantproblem, not only economically but socially and politically."
Many of Bluestone's books have also investigated this relationship between businesses and the workers they employ. In their book The Deindustrialization of America, Bluestone and Harrison extensively document the social and human costs of the industrial changes that marked the 1970s, a decade when approximately thirty million jobs were lost due to plant closings, relocations, and company mergers. The authors analyze possible reasons for the economic decline that accompanied them, and suggest strategies for handling such change in the future.
The research statistics the authors gathered revealed that the price paid by workers displaced during the 1970s was high, including such hardships as the failure to find equally rewarding employment, the loss of savings, homes, pension rights, and health insurance coverage, serious emotional suffering, and even the dissolution of some families and communities. The authors also found, as Robert B. Reich noted in his review for the New Republic, that the decline of a major employer generates a total unemployment that is two or three times the number of employees originally affected and leaves entire communities without adequate tax bases, just when they have greatest need for the extra funds to provide health and welfare services.
Bluestone and Harrison cite several reasons for the economic decline of the seventies: the growth in foreign competition, the transportation and communications revolutions that made relocation relatively easy and cost-effective, and government tax and tariff policies that provided incentives to depreciate older capital and relocate production. They place the major blame, however, on American business strategies, rather than public policies, for the plight that ensued. Instead of investing in restructuring American industry and retraining workers, the authors argue, American management turned its back on the "social contract" it had entered into with organized labor decades earlier. Management policy and practice shifted, they continue, "from productive investment in our basic national industries into unproductive speculation, mergers and acquisitions and foreign investment." Consequently, American investment capital fled to other nations and to low-wage, nonunionized areas of the United States.
The plan for the reindustrialization of America that Bluestone and Harrison favored at the time, and called "Reindustrialization with a Human Face," features the establishment of a national "industrial policy" to ease the transition from the older "sunset industries," predominantly heavy manufacturing, to the newer "hitech" ones. The authors' "strongest practical suggestion," according to Washington Post Book World contributor Jack Beatty, "is the passage of an Employment Priorities Act requiring companies to give communities notice of their plans to relocate or shut down operations and to help pay for retraining laid-off workers." It is a way to economic recovery that is, in Beatty's opinion, "a third path between the alternatives of protectionism or chronically high unemployment," an industrial policy that needs to be "sold politically." The book, in Beatty's judgment, is "an important one, based on a power of original research and a careful synthesis of other scholarship." Likewise, New York Times Book Review critic Alfred E. Kahn complimented the two economists on their "genuine contribution" to the debate on how to cope with industrial change "by emphasizing the costs of change to the people, families and communities disadvantaged by it, many of them permanently." Additionally, Kahn noted, "They persuade even the skeptical reader that the problem is real and enormous and that our prevailing institutions for dealing with it are grossly insufficient."
In The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America, Bluestone and Harrison continue the arguments they began with The Deindustrialization of America. Here they contend that while corporate policies created more jobs in the 1980s, the quality of these jobs was much lower than the positions that had been lost. People earned less money at part-time jobs with lower wages, a situation that has also lowered the American standard of living for all but those in the upper echelons of businesses. While Inc. contributor John Case felt there were flaws in their argument, including oversimplifying the problem by blaming corporate mismanagement, Case also added that the book offers "a provocative antidote, both to mindless business boosterism and to the Washington-oriented mentality of [President Ronald] Reagan's other critics."
With Negotiating the Future: A Labor Perspective on American Business, Bluestone teamed up with his father, former United Auto Workers vice president Irving Bluestone, who was then teaching at Wayne State University, to write about labor unions and their views on business. The Bluestones assert that issues of quality, productivity, and innovation should not remain solely in the domain of management but that laborers should also take a greater role in participating in how companies grow and improve. "The authors give ample evidence that such arrangements when augmented can work in both the manufacturing and service sectors," said a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The blame for the sour mood among employees on the shop floor lies not only with corporate managers, say the Bluestones, but also with labor unions that focus too much on wages and not enough on the workers' role in the company. The authors further point out that companies in foreign nations have increased their competitive edge against the United States by initiating innovative workplace policies that have increased worker satisfaction, productivity, and quality significantly. According to John Buell in the Progressive, the Bluestones "clearly distinguish between token job enrichment and more fundamental efforts at worker empowerment. They make a convincing case that any form of worker empowerment has a better chance of succeeding when backed by a union with strength and willingness to protect the interests of its members."
More recently, Bluestone completed his last work to be written with Harrison, who passed away in 1999 shortly before it was published. Published before the dot-com bubble burst and stocks began to fall, Growing Prosperity: The Battle for Growth with Equality in the Twenty-first Century discusses the history of the American economy since World War II and asserts that the increased economic growth during the late 1990s was due to productivity gains as the result of improved information technology. The authors argue "persuasively," according to one Publishers Weekly writer, "for replacing the Wall Street model with pro-Main Street policies" of more government investment in education, research, and infrastructure. As part of the effort to maintain a healthy economy, though, wages for workers must continue to increase to ensure that consumers can maintain a high enough standard of living to buy the goods and services provided by the new technological economy. Library Journal reviewer Steven J. Mayover called Growing Prosperity a "much-needed reassessment of our current and future prospects."
Bluestone once told CA: "My work is motivated by the desire to bring the latest in economic and sociological insights to bear on critical policy issues of employment, equity, and economic development."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Anitpode: A Radical Journey of Geography, January, 2001.
Forbes, June 20, 1983, James Cook, "The Argument for Plant-Closing Legislation," p. 82.
Inc., October, 1988, John Case, review of The Great U-Turn: Corporate Restructuring and the Polarizing of America, p. 31.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Steven J. Mayover, review of Growing Prosperity: Striving for Growth with Equality in the Twenty-first Century, p. 129.
New Republic, November 15, 1982, Robert B. Reich, review of The Deindustrialization of America: Plant Closings, Community Abandonment, and the Dismantling of Basic Industry.
New York Times Book Review, December 12, 1982, Alfred E. Kahn, review of The Deindustrialization of America.
Progressive, August, 1993, John Buell, review of Negotiating the Future: A Labor Perspective on American Business, p. 42.
Publishers Weekly, October 19, 1992, review of Negotiating the Future, p. 71; December 20, 1999, review of Growing Prosperity, p. 68; May 22, 2000, review of The Boston Renaissance: Race, Space, and Economic Change in an American Metropolis, p. 89.
Tikkun, November-December, 1993, David Brody, review of Negotiating the Future, p. 91.
Washington Post Book World, December 12, 1982, Jack Beatty, review of The Deindustrialization of America.