Thomas J (TJ) Adams, Strath Haven High School - Grade Level 12

Lesson Plan: Disposable Lives, Disposable Bodies: Alienation, Surplus Value, and Super Exploited Labor at Duffy's Cut

The story of Duffy’s Cut contains numerous opportunities for historical and critical interventions in a secondary level Social Studies classroom. One of the most telling themes that emerges from an investigation into the history of Duffy’s Cut is the recognition of the role that super exploited labor played in the formation of our earliest railways at the dawn of the American Industrial Revolution and the almost complete devaluation of human life that was the true cost of these expansive building projects. Karl Marx was theorizing a powerful form of capitalist critique only a decade after the events at Duffy’s Cut occurred and today his theories of alienation and surplus value are as useful and trenchant as they were when he wrote them in 1844. An examination of the deaths of Irish laborers at Duffy’s Cut within the framework of Marxian critique can help students better understand the experiences of workers in 1832 and today during capitalist phases of production.

NEHImmaculata UniversityDuffy's CutPenn Museum

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