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Palgrave Macmillan

New Trade Union Activism

Class Consciousness or Social Identity?

ISBN 9780230311923
Publication Date January 2011
Formats Ebook (EPUB) Hardcover Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

New trade union roles and contexts have encouraged the emergence of new representatives and provided the basis for a more diverse activism. This book asks whether trade union activity and ideologies allow for the expression and mobilisation of different social identities and whether, in a changed and changing economic and political context, these eclipse class. Based upon the voices of the activists themselves, this book restores the subject to the landscape of industrial relations. It reasserts the centrality of work and the workplace to social identity, but emphasizes the importance of gender, race and ethnicity to changing work relations and consequently to the production of collective identity and consciousness. Yet new activism may be articulated in rather abstract concepts of equality and fairness, distinct from earlier more assertive and politically focused collective mobilization of politically conscious identities which characterized the self-organisation of social movements, but also from the language and vocabulary of class consciousness – reflecting legacies of political defeat.

SIAN MOORE Reader at the Working Lives Research Institute at London Metropolitan University, UK. She has published on gender and class, trade union recognition, learning and activism. She previously worked on the Leverhulme Future of Unions programme at the London School of Economics, at the Labour Research Department and in local government, where she was a NALGO activist.

Identity and Consciousness: An Unstable Relationship? 
Structure and Agency: The Dynamics of Workplace Activism
The Role of Activists in Collective Mobilisation: Statutory Recognition Ballots
Agents of Neoliberalism? : The Contested Role of the ULR
From Self-organisation to Equality? The Emergence of Equality Reps
Legacies of Self-organisation? Migrant Worker Activists
The Ideological Dimensions of Activism: Excavating Class?


'This timely exploration of what motivates trade unionists to become active is essential reading for all those interested in the future of trade unionism. Crucially, the book draws on the voices of a new generation of workplace representatives - migrant workers, organisers, learning and equality reps - and enriches our understanding of how shifting social identities help shape collective consciousness and action. In the wake of the biggest financial crash in living memory, unions remain a vital channel for working people to challenge inequality at work and in society. This analysis signals where real opportunities for union renewal lie.' Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary, Trades Union Congress, UK
'[G]iving voice to activists themselves [Sian Moore] demonstrates the continuing role of agency in a range of employment and union contexts, and through diverse political ideas, languages and forms of action. What makes this book unusual is the lucid, yet nuanced way in which it unravels workers' testimonies and reveals how fluctuating and fusing identities of class, gender, sexuality, race and age are driving forces for change in the world of work. This is essential reading for students, activists and policy makers eager to gain insights into what makes activists tick in a period of seeming labour quiescence.' - Anna Pollert, Professor of the Sociology of Work, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
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