Michael Burawoy has been a participant observer of industrial workplaces in four countries: Zambia, United States, Hungary and Russia. His projects attempt to illuminate, in turn, the contradictions of postcolonialism; the organization of consent to advanced capitalism; the peculiar forms of class consciousness and work organization under state socialism; and, finally, the dilemmas of the Soviet transition to capitalism.
Over the course of five decades of research and teaching, he has developed The Extended Case Method that allows broad conclusions to be drawn from ethnographic research. The same methodology is advanced in Global Ethnography, coauthored with 9 graduate students, showing how globalization can be studied "from below" through participating in the lives of those who experience it. No longer able to work in factories, he turned to the study of his own workplace – the university – to consider the way sociology itself is produced and then disseminated to diverse publics. His advocacy of public sociology has generated much heat in many a cool place. Of late, together with 5 graduate students, he has been developing a labor theory of pedagogy.
From the beginning he sought to advance Marxism by pursuing its reconstruction in the light of his research and, more broadly, in the light of the historical challenges of the late 20th and early 21st. centuries. He has brought Marxism into conversation with the sociology of Karl Polanyi and Pierre Bourdieu. Most recently, he has been studying the life and work of W.E.B. Du Bois with a view to his significance both for sociology and for Marxism.
He has been president of the American Sociological Association (2003-4); president of the International Sociological Association (2010-14); founding editor of the magazine, Global Dialogue (2010-2017); and co-chair and secretary of the Berkeley Faculty Association (2015-2021). After 47 years, he left Berkeley for the world.
For an amusing account of his research see Jeff Byles' article in the Village Voice, "Tales of the Kefir Furnaceman."
Recent and Forthcoming Publications
"Laboring in the Extractive University," Introduction to Toward a Labor Theory of Pedagogy (Special Issue of Work and Occupations written with Margaret Eby, Thomas Gepts, Justin Germain, Natalie Pasquinelli and Elizabeth Torres Carpio, OnlineFirst, 2023)
"W.E.B. Du Bois' Indian Romance." (Sociological Bulletin, 2023 )
The Making of Black Marxism: The Complementary Perspectives of W.E.B. Du Bois and Frantz Fanon. (Forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of W.E.B. Du Bois)
Preface to the Chinese edition of The Politics of Production. (Horizon Books 2023)