The origins and development of the project of which this book and its companion are the main fruits have been set out by Alessandro Pizzorno in his preface to the first volume (The Resurgence of Class Conflict in Western Europe since 1968: National Studies). In that book we described, in the context of a particular set of themes and questions, the different national experiences of the countries covered by our project (Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and West Germany). We turn now to comparative analysis, drawing on the empirical material established in the previous volume in order to illuminate issues relevant to several or all of our countries.
The discussions in our group during the period that we held our seminars (1974 and 1975) did not enable us to reach a unity of views on interpretations and explanations of the phenomena under consideration, and no one of us is necessarily committed to the analysis presented in the other papers. The discerning reader will detect these underlying differences, while on occasion precise points of disagreement are made explicit in the text. However, in the course of discussion and through criticism of each other's early drafts we have managed to reduce the range of disagreements and to gain from the encounter with other national or intellectual traditions. Hopefully there is evidence of this in our final product. More important, we have achieved something close to unity concerning the themes of continuing relevance to our subject. All the papers address themselves to a common set of problematics, even if not all of them have each element of this set within their brief.
A point of importance is, as noted by Pizzorno in the preface to Volumer I, the significant shift which took place in our perspective during the course of the project. The phenomenon that initially inspired formation of the project was that of increased shop-floor militancy, associated with the decentralisation of working-class action and the prominence of 'new' sections of that class. By the end our focus had moved to the state, its relations with the central organisations of capital and labour, and to macroeconomic variables at national and international level. In part this change can be related to external events. In the years immediately following 1968 the most notable events were those at the level of the plant and the largely spontaneous actions among workers, women, students, immigrants and urban protest groups, which surprised those who had spent years studying the social quiescence of the 1950s and early 1960s. But later the major changes in the position of the . . .