Capital Moves

RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor

The highly acclaimed account of one renowned company’s labor struggles in its rise to global power

Winner, Philip Taft Prize for the Best Book in Labor History

Globalization is the lead story of the new century, but its roots reach back nearly one hundred years, to major corporations’ quest for stable, inexpensive, and pliant sources of labor. Before the largest companies moved beyond national boundaries, they crossed state lines, abandoning the industrial centers of the Eastern Seaboard for impoverished rural communities in the Midwest and South. In their wake they left the decaying urban landscapes and unemployment rates that became hallmarks of late twentieth-century America. This is the story that Jefferson Cowie, in “a stunningly important work of historical imagination and rediscovery” (Nelson Lichtenstein), tells through the lens of a single American corporation, RCA.

Capital Moves takes us through the interconnected histories of Camden, New Jersey; Bloomington, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and Juárez, Mexico—four cities radically transformed by America’s leading manufacturer of records and radio sets. In a sweeping narrative of economic upheaval and class conflict, Cowie weaves together the rich detail of local history with the national—and ultimately international—story of economic and social change.



Capital Moves is a stunningly important work of historical imagination and rediscovery that links the present with the past in a fashion that is exciting and suggestive.”
—Nelson Lichtenstein, University of Virginia
Capital Moves is must reading for those who want to understand the forces that have reshaped the American and global economies over the last half-century.”
—Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania
“A conceptually rich and deeply humane book.”
—Michael Kazin, author of The Populist Persuasion: An American History

Books by Jefferson Cowie

Stayin’ Alive
The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class

Jefferson Cowie

Goodreads Reviews