Managed Solidarity: Institutions and Intralabor Conflict in Postwar Britain and Germany
60 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2005
Date Written: October 2000
The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the impact of institutional legacy on the capacities of labor movements to maintain solidarity. The role of industrial and political institutions is assessed through a comparative study of two key strikes in late postwar Britain and Germany. The three types of institutions expected to affect strike solidarity are: first, the internal structure of unions (in this case, the British National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the German metalworkers union (IG Metall)); second, their relations to the larger labor movement, including the unions' links to the plant level, their relationships with other unions, and their relationships with the British Trade Union Confederation (TUC) and German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB), respectively; and third, unions' relations with various aspects of the state: the left party, the government, and the law. These historically contingent arrangements within which union leaders manage the diverse interests of their membership help determine capacity for solidarity in two ways: first, by strengthening or weakening the union externally, they raise or lower the net benefits and probability of collective success; second, they determine the central office's level of control over its membership. Rather than relying on class consciousness or camaraderie to solve labor's collective action problems, labor leaders develop strategies within the national institutions they are dealt in order to construct and manage solidarity.
Keywords: Unions, labor movements, historical institutionalism, solidarity, industrial relations, strikes, class consciousness
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