Table of Contents : The Failure of Labor Conflict Institutionalization in South African Mines - Economic Crisis and Social Protest in Spain - The Emergence of Autonomous Collective - Labor Conflicts in Germany - The Spring 2006 Immigrant Movement - The Prebendary State and Industrial Policy in Cambodia - etc. Read More
The Failure of Labor Conflict Institutionalization in South African Mines
Taking the strikes that have shaken the South African mining sector since 2012 as my point of departure, I examine the strikers' rejection of their historic trade union and its implications for post-apartheid labor relations. Criticizing the sometimes over-hasty denunciation of the corruption and bureaucratization of dominant trade union actors, I offer an interpretation of industrial conflict from the perspective of negotiation among actors in the mining sector. Ethnographic observation reveals the broader process by means of which labor conflict is institutionalized. In so doing, it shows that it is indeed the construction of a trade union monopoly – concomitant with this process – that raises problems for the activist base, who continue to resist the negotiated dynamic that has transformed the South African mining sector since 1994.
Economic Crisis and Social Protest in Spain: A Collision between Labor Unions and Social Movements?
The "Indignant" protest movement that spread across Spain in May 2011 strongly criticized the institutions of representative democracy and, in particular, the role played in them by the dominant political parties. What are known as the "majority" labor unions, for their part, were also identified as being part of the system, especially given their impotence confronted with the scale of austerity policies. While it appears to have been complete, the rift between labor unionism and this form of mobilization is nevertheless worth considering more closely. This is first of all because the Indignants Movement had closer ties to the world of work than was initially claimed. Evidence of this can be found in the presence of labor union activists in public places and neighborhood assemblies as well as in themes relating to job security and the defense of public services. Moreover, the movement was followed by other phases of mobilization, notably in the education sector. What's more, labor unions, including such “majority” unions as the Workers’ Commissions and the UGT, were receptive to the criticism levelled at them and attempted to respond to it.
The Emergence of Autonomous Collective
Negotiations in China
How can autonomous collective negotiations emerge in a country with a political system that recognizes neither the right to strike nor the right of association? To answer this question, I draw upon field work carried out in southern China in 2013-14 among workers’ leaders, workers’ defense organizations and a law firm specializing in labor law. In particular, I show how these actors in practice gradually effect change in forms of representation and conflict management by adopting an apolitical stance and deferring to rational and pragmatic considerations of a type the Party can hardly dismiss. In this way, the manner in which power is exercised by China’s authoritarian regime is even renegotiated. At present, however, these collective negotiations are merely ad hoc and localized forms of conflict resolution and, as such, are faced with difficulties of institutionalization and systematization.
Olivier Giraud and Michel Lallement
Labor Conflicts in Germany: New Forms, New Issues
This contribution examines the dynamics of contemporary labor conflicts in Germany. Its central thesis is twofold: that conflicts between employers and employees are assuming more diverse forms and that the meaning of social struggles in the productive world and the issues at stake there are undergoing transformation. Across the Rhine, the large scale reorganizations of the labor market of the past fifteen years have fragmented employment norms and situations, with direct consequences for the regulation of labor relations. In the first part of this article, we seek to shed light on the movement to institutionalize conflict and social regulations over the course of the second half of the twentieth-century. In the second part, we focus on conflictual situations in two, contrasting sectors: that of train conductors, who may be seen as “insiders”, and that of online commerce, where regulations are much looser and mobilized employees are “outsiders” less well-protected by law and collective agreements. In the third part, we offer an interpretation of recent labor conflict developments by drawing upon an institutional, sectorial and statistical analysis.
The Spring 2006 Immigrant Movement: Is Political Mobilization Making a Comeback among American Workers?
The spring 2006 demonstrations that took place in the United States against a bill to further crack down on undocumented immigrants came as a great surprise. Bringing together millions of immigrants and their supporters, this atypical event may be studied as a political mobilization of workers – a rare event in today’s United States. I begin my discussion by sketching the main stages in the history of labor unions and ethno-racial minorities in order to show how the 2006 movement partly diverged from this context. I then consider the degree to which this movement involved the entry en masse of workers onto the political scene. Drawing upon the first studies devoted to this major mobilization as well as a field study carried out in Chicago during and after the protests, I emphasize the role played by “intermediary” activist circles whose members’ activities are frequently informed by the workers’ movements of their home countries and who retain a degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the US organizations to which they often belong. Finally, I discuss the limits of the transformations brought about or entertained by this movement, which, irreducible to the issue of labor alone, stands as confirmation that certain political and ethno-racial fault lines play a significant role in US social movements.
The Prebendary State and Industrial Policy in Cambodia
Applied to Cambodia, the notion of the prebendary state refers to the capacity of political elites to organize the internal market on the basis of concessions reserved for those in their immediate circle and contracts signed with foreign investors entailing the exchange of financial gifts for legal deregulation and the privatization of violence. In the domain of industrial policy, this authoritarian form of patrimonial domination is embodied by special economic zones. These zones underscore the agreements reached between public actors and private investors, the Tayloristic organization of labor within firms and the absence of professional relations. As a result, these zones are very weakly linked to regional development flows in the Mekong Basin, suggesting that the Cambodian case be seen as a degraded instance of “developmentalism”.
The Affection, Disaffection and Defection of Two Young Muslim Brothers in Egypt
The young Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood bloggers who began to raise their voice in 2006 represent an interesting case to analyze the affective dimension of disengagement process. Despite their adoption of a dissident stance – clearly related to their ideological defection as well as to their insertion into new activist networks – they did not immediately leave the Brotherhood. They continued to be dependent upon this organization which is known for its all-encompassing character. Comparing two trajectories which mix loyalty and disengagement allows one to draw connections between (rather than separate) the processes whereby one remains with or leaves the group. I argue that the paradoxical loyalty of dissidents is to be explained by the Brotherhood’s capacity as an organization to produce powerful emotional attachment – ukhuwa (fraternity). But the various ways in which the dissidents experience these intense affective states determine whether they pursue their commitment or withdraw. Indeed, ukhuwa is a double-edged feeling: while it is at the basis of the Brotherhood’s appeal, and while it is the core of the members’ loyalty, it can also be a source of exclusion and make relations turn violent. The article shows how this ambivalence characterizes the internal relations which structure the group.
The “Nationalist Causes”: A Reconsideration of Activist Involvement in the Light of Biographical Narratives
This article draws upon biographical narratives to examine the relationship between nationalism and activism. These narratives fall within the scope of three major nationalist causes: Peronism, the Basque independence movement and the Action française. The biographical reconstruction of oral testimony supplies information as to the trajectories of the selected actors and sheds light on the dynamics at play between activist compromise and national demands. By meticulously examining individual cases – more particularly, the representations and careers of actors for whom nationalist identity played a formative role – more general (diachronic and synchronic) characteristics of the activist nationalisms under consideration may be identified (e.g., the role of political violence, forms of compromise among members of an organization, changing relations between various political families, the gradual exhaustion of what are known as national liberation organizations). My methodological approach is characterized by “comparativism from below” and draws upon qualitative research carried out within the environments under investigation.