Why is labor rioting in Europe but not in the US?

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The country of Mother Jones, John L. Lewis and Walter Reuther certainly has had a rich and sometimes militant history of labor protest — from the Homestead Steel Works strike against Andrew Carnegie in 1892 to the auto workers’ sit-down strikes of the 1930s and the 67-day walkout by 400,000 G.M. workers in 1970.

But in recent decades, American workers have increasingly steered clear of such militancy, for reasons that range from fear of having their jobs shipped overseas to their self-image as full-fledged members of the middle class, with all its trappings and aspirations.

David Kennedy, a Stanford historian and author of “Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945,” says that America’s individualist streak is a major reason for this reluctance to take to the streets. Citing a 1940 study by the social psychologist Mirra Komarovsky, he said her interviews of the Depression-era unemployed found “the psychological reaction was to feel guilty and ashamed, that they had failed personally.”

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