A reappraisal of the rank-and-file/bureaucracy debate

Darlington, RR and Upchurch, M 2012, 'A reappraisal of the rank-and-file/bureaucracy debate' , Capital and Class, 36 (1) , pp. 77-95.

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This paper celebrates some of the considerable strengths of Richard Hyman’s 1970s/early 1980s analysis of trade unionism in general and bureaucracy specifically, and reapplies it to more recent developments within British trade unionism, while at the same time providing a critique of Hyman’s refutation of the ‘rank-and-file’ versus ‘union bureaucracy’ conception of intra-union relations. It argues the wider set of implications Hyman drew from the accentuated pressures towards the bureaucratisation of workplace union organisation which he identified ‘bent the stick’ too far in the opposite direction. In attempting to defend and refine the classical revolutionary Marxist analytical framework, the paper maintains that the conflict of interest that exists between full-time officials and rank-and-file members is a meaningful generalisation of a real contradiction within trade unionism, notwithstanding the variations and complexities involved. It examines the nature and social dynamics of (a) full-time union officialdom, (b) shop stewards and workplace union organisation, and (c) the relationship between the two. In the process, the limits and potential of both Hyman’s ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ writings are highlighted and some broader generalisations are drawn with relevance to current dilemmas for trade unionism.

Item Type: Article
Themes: Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School > Salford Business School Research Centre
Journal or Publication Title: Capital and Class
Publisher: SAGE Choice
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 0309-8168
Related URLs:
Depositing User: RR Darlington
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2011 10:24
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 12:32
URI: https://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/17817

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