Activists face bureaucrats: the failure of the Israeli social workers' campaign


Correspondence should be addressed to Jonathan Preminger, Sociology Department, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva 8410501, Israel; email:


The Israeli social workers' campaign of 2011 enjoyed widespread support, a groundswell of rank-and-file participation, and democratic representation through new organisations pushing for a protracted struggle, yet the collective agreement seemingly imposed by the Histadrut fell far short of expectations. This article explains this discrepancy by asserting that the new organisations' ‘radical’ organising approach threatened the labour federation's long history of social partnership and its main strategies for retaining its hegemony. Thus incompatibility between the social partnership approach and the more radical ‘organising’ approach may explain the failure of a collective campaign and shed light on cases where the union appears to be suppressing or neutralising the aspirations of the workers it claims to represent.