Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism, and Long Waves

By John Kelly | Go to book overview

3

MOBILIZATION THEORY

Introduction

Over the past twenty years political scientists, sociologists and social psychologists have developed a large body of work on social movements and collective action. One of the main attractions of this literature is that its research agenda maps very closely onto the central problems of industrial relations: first, how do individuals acquire a sense of collective, as opposed to individual grievance? Second, how, and under what conditions, do individuals organize collectively to pursue their grievances (or interests, more broadly defined)? Third, how, and under what conditions, will such individuals take collective action, that is ‘cooperative action taken by a number of individuals acting in concert and with common goals’ (Scott 1992:128; and Tilly 1978:7 for a similar definition).

These questions entail analysis of the ways in which groups perceive and acquire power resources and deploy them in the construction of different types of conflictual and collaborative relationships. A clearer understanding of the conditions under which workers formulate their interests in collective terms should enable us to transcend the woolliness and imprecision that has marred debates about the alleged decline of worker collectivism (see Chapter 2). There is no single theory of mobilization and I have therefore drawn on the work of several writers, in particular Tilly (1978), McAdam (1988) and Gamson (1992, 1995). The chapter begins with definitions of terms and basic assumptions, and then sets out the main social and cognitive processes thought to be involved in the transformation of individuals into collective actors (and vice versa), under the headings of interests and mobilization. In the next chapter I then explore the implications of the theory for the central problems in the field.

Basic assumptions and definitions

Tilly’s (1978) mobilization ‘theory’ 1 begins from a set of Marxist premises. Society is composed of a ruling class and a subordinate (or working) class who have conflicting interests. The ruling class comprises senior state officials, such as judges and top civil servants as well as employers, and seeks to secure and main-

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Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism, and Long Waves
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Field of Industrial Relations 4
  • 3 - Mobilization Theory 24
  • 4 - Mobilization and Industrial Relations 39
  • 5 - Olsonian Theory and Collective Action 66
  • 6 - Long Waves in Industrial Relations 83
  • 7 - Postmodernism and the End of the Labour Movement 108
  • 8 - Conclusions 126
  • Notes 133
  • Bibliography 143
  • Name Index 168
  • Subject Index 173
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