The agitator “theory” of strikes re-evaluated

Darlington, RR 2006, 'The agitator “theory” of strikes re-evaluated' , Labor History, 47 (4) , pp. 485-509.

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This article re-evaluates the so-called 'agitator theory' of strikes, the popular (often media-induced) notion that industrial militancy is the work of a few hard-core militant shop stewards and/or left-wing political 'agitators.' It suggests that while many industrial relations academics have traditionally refused to accept such a one-dimensional explanation for strikes, for example in relation to the Communist Party in the post-war years, many have generally gone too far and fallen into the alternative trap of neglecting the influence of politically influenced activists and shop stewards. Re-evaluating the agitator 'theory' by an equally critical consideration of six of the counter-arguments levelled in the past by its academic industrial relations opponents, the article provides evidence to suggest that, despite exaggeration and distortion, there is clearly an important element of truth in the thesis; agency in collective workplace mobilization, in particular the role of leadership by union militants and left-wing activists, can be an important (although by no means exclusive) variable in an understanding of the dynamics of workplace industrial action in both contemporary and historical settings.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects / Themes > H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Labor History
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0023-656X
Depositing User: RR Darlington
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2010 10:12
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 10:04

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