York & District Trades Union Council News Collectivism and the Labour Movement

Collectivism and the Labour Movement

Trades council member publishes research in peer-reviewed journal discussing the role of collectivism in the labour movement.

On Tuesday 17 February the University of Huddersfield officially launched its first peer-reviewed journal Fields. This journal has centred on high quality student research from a wide range of subjects in the institution. Within this first volume I have contributed an article titled To What Extent Does the Ideological Construct of Collectivism Continue to Govern the British Trade Union and Labour Movement?  This article specifically looks at the changing role of collectivism within the labour movement.

The topic of the labour movement, and trade unionism in particular, I felt was quite an important topic to visit. Over the summer Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty First Century drew attention to the issue of inequality within contemporary society. By the end of last year Richard Wilkinson – author of the Spirit Level – published a Fabian pamphlet making a direct link between trade union decline and increased inequality.

Recently I did a talk at Huddersfield Labour party discussing my article where a member of the audience remarked “I don’t think we’ve had a discussion on trade unions since the miners’ strike.” Therefore I think now is the perfect time to re-address and re-evaluate trade unions and the positive role they play in society.

Within my research I have discussed the declining role of collectivism within the British Labour Party and trade union movement. I hypothesised that due to changes in the structures of capitalism trade unions have had to individualise some of their foundations leading to a decline of collectivism. I also hypothesised that due to these changes Labour have also altered their traditional collectivist position – to most readers this will seem more apparent.

In order to test these hypotheses I conducted interviews with experienced shop stewards varying in age, occupation and gender. These interviews highlighted that whilst the labour movement has undoubtedly changed and individualised, notions of collectivism are still present but its meaning has transformed. If trade unions can harness these new interpretations it could develop a new way of crafting collective social identities which could be used for mobilisation.

This conclusion I felt was an important intervention to what has currently been written on the topic. In order to download this article for free follow the link below.


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