The Work of Retirement
In the past few decades, caregivers, such as nursing assistants and home health aides, have come to compose the fastest-growing segment of the paid workforce in the United States. At the same time, corporate caretakers of workers’ savings, such as pension funds and mutual funds, have become the nation's largest investors, bound by fiduciary duties of trust. And unprecedented numbers of elder employees and retirees have become the biggest supposed beneficiaries of both care labor and trust capital, depending on health workers and asset managers in their daily lives. At the center of this emerging structure of work, wealth, and welfare lies the pension system, a telling crucible of class relations in our time. Several recent books across different disciplines examine the shifting politics of pensions in the United States and around the world. The spate of new studies presents an opportunity to explore the remarkable role of retirement funds in reorganizing labor and finance over the past fifty years. Rather than offering a historiographical critique of current work, this expository essay surveys the main findings of a larger and longer body of scholarship on organized labor and investment related to pensions. Though focused on the United States, it places the American story in a comparative context. The survey points to a fertile field for further study: as retirees have increasingly relied on professional asset managers and caregivers, the finance and health sectors have undergone converging crises over fiduciary duty and elder care, posing parallel challenges for organized labor.
CitationSklansky, J. (2023). The Work of Retirement. International Review of Social History, 1-23. doi:10.1017/S0020859023000196
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)