The Wisconsin school of labor history and labor economics rose and fell within a particular historical context. While Richard T. Ely studied labor union movements in pursuit of furthering social progress, others, such as John R. Commons and Selig Perlman, desired to understand the social constitution of these movements. Perlman played a pivotal role by developing a theory of the labor movement. This theory, while having had a significant impact on the development of labor history, had relatively less impact on the development of labor economics.

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