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American Ethnologist

Community unionism versus business unionism: The return of the moral economy in trade union studies



In this article, I discuss different forms of working-class activism in two steel factories in Sheffield, England, where I conducted fieldwork between 1999 and 2000. Locating the ethnography in the broader context of the U.K.'s financial capitalism, I describe how the models of “community unionism” and “business unionism” were implemented on the two shop floors, affecting the work practices, political strategies, and forms of solidarities of workers. I show, first, how the current financialization of the economy challenges existing labor strategies, leading to new political solidarities and moralities of labor. Second, I use current debates on trade union activism to think anthropologically about class, labor, and the relations between society and the economy under capitalism.

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