Workplace Relations: Class and Trade Unionism

Event details

When

Jan 14, 2014
from 05:30 PM to 06:30 PM

Where

Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1

Contact Name

Contact Phone

0116 252 2320

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Professor Bob Carter 

School of Management

Lecture Summary

My interests have been in class relations, the labour process and trade unions.  This lecture visits these interests through research conducted on the introduction of lean techniques in HMRC, making observations and generalizations connected to my historic preoccupation. 

As E. P. Thompson (1968) reminded us class is not a thing but a social relation, a point taken up by new class writings in the late 1960s and 1970s that offered a counterpoint to the English traditions of concentrating on conceptions of status and subjectivity as indicated by self-allocation.  The new sociology of work and in particular its concentration on the labour process stimulated by Braverman’s (1974) Labor and Monopoly Capital enlivened the discipline and Marxism. I was impressed in particular by the (at the time and now) neglected work of Carchedi (1977)that reconnected class relations not only to production but also to the generation and expropriation of surplus value. My own particular contribution was to combine the new thinking on class and labour process to the nature of unions.  In particular, it looked at how some unions comprising large numbers of new middle class members (managers and supervisors) accommodated their different interests and hence had a different character.

A number of factors make a similar project today more difficult. The independent organization of white-collar labour (including within its ranks some new middle class employees) is much less prominent, as weakness and lack of viability has caused them to seek merger in general unions. Lack of visibility and the lack of militant industrial action compound the problem of disentangling the conservative nature of unions as institutions from the specific influences of the composition of their memberships. The lecture will reflect on these issues through a study of change in the organization and social relations of tax work and the responses of the trade union, Public and Commercial Services.

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