Structure, Thought, and Action: Stewards in Chicago Union Locals

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Abstract

Stewards in a Chicago union local agree that having the whole industry organized is the most important factor in getting good contracts for their local, but they do not see organizing as important to their roles as stewards. I bring ethnographic work among Chicago union locals to bear on the question of the relationships among structure, thought, and action and argue that everyday realities are more powerful in determining patterns of thought than patterns of thought are in determining everyday realities. The consciousness of stewards reflects the realities of power at their workplaces. This is not because of the hegemony of another class over the cultural apparatus or its ability to shape ideas that form culture but, rather, its power to shape the realities of workplace life and the daily lives of workers, realities that become encoded as patterns of thought. [Key words: class, unions, consciousness, culture, structure, work]

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