Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism, and Long Waves

By John Kelly | Go to book overview

6

LONG WAVES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

Mobilization and counter-mobilization in historical perspective

Introduction

The last three chapters have concentrated on the analysis of worker mobilization, as well as state and employer counter-mobilization, over a short time frame. The focus of mobilization theory as I have expounded and developed it has been on the short-run, group and inter-group dynamics involved in collective interest definition, organization, mobilization and action. Yet it is clear from Tilly’s (1978) studies that there are also powerful long-term forces at work shaping the opportunities and the forms of collective activity. Consequently we must now examine the processes of mobilization and counter-mobilization in historical perspective, and one approach that could help do this is long wave theory.

The idea of ‘long waves’ of economic development is again on the intellectual agenda, after a long hiatus during the postwar economic boom and the early years of the late twentieth-century recession. The short business cycle of five to ten years duration is a familiar and widely used concept, but the notion of long waves in the economy of approximately fifty years duration is far more contentious and there is considerable dispute surrounding the underlying mechanisms of any such phenomenon. They are popularly associated with the Russian economist Kondratieff, who initiated a major discussion of their existence and significance in the 1920s. 1 Long waves are now commonly defined as regular patterns of fluctuation in one or more economic indicators (usually prices, output and profit rates) synchronized across countries, with a total span of approximately fifty years, consisting of a twenty-five year ‘upswing’ (of sustained growth), and twenty-five years of ‘downswing’ (sporadic growth and recession).

Why should the concept of long waves be of interest to researchers in industrial relations? First, many of the debates about the ‘transformation of industrial relations’, the emergence of new systems of labour relations or the alleged decline of worker collectivism have been conducted in an historical vacuum. Long wave theorists by contrast insist on the need to situate shifts in labour-capital relations in an historical perspective. Only then can we begin to delineate what is truly

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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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