Dennis, Alex and McAuley, James W. (2003) What about which workers? Social movements and social organisations in the contemporary United Kingdom. In: 6th ESA Conference, 23-26 September 2003, Murcia, Spain. (Unpublished)

It is now increasingly argued that within contemporary society it is new forms of social movements that mobilize and drive politics. The expansion of the definition of politics beyond the party political, the diminished role of the state, the ever increasing importance of globalization, and social fragmentation all mean that the centrality of class can no longer be sustained. If it is the case that there have been changes in the nature of social movements in recent years leading to a radical break between 'old' and 'new' social movements it is reasonable to assume that there has also been a change in the material basis of those movements. No movement, however critical of capitalist structure and organisation, can be 'pure' in its opposition to capitalism, and regardless of whether one is prepared to accept Lenin's distinction between class consciousness and trade union consciousness any theory must be rooted in some form of everyday experience. The 'problem' of workplace-based social movements seems to us to only be a problem for two reasons: first, the concepts used around work and the workplace are historically specific and now outdated, not because of changes in the nature of work but because of changes in the relationship between the sphere of employment and other spheres of capital's operation. Secondly, the concepts used around class and identity are also historically explicit and outdated, not because of changes in class structure but as a consequence of capital's development and changes in technological ideology. The growing prominence and importance of non-workplace-based social movements (such as the fuel blockades and the Countryside Alliance in Britain) does not necessarily indicate that new forms of movement are growing up, but rather that our grammar for talking about such movements may be inadequate. In response, this paper will highlight the tendency toward practical and ideological co-operation between workplace- based mobilisations and new social movements (such as co-operation between the Liverpool Dockers and the 'Reclaim the Streets' movement). These and others will be considered as examples of how the limitations in our conceptual framework might be empirically tested and resolved

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email