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Labor Movement

Rick Fantasia and Kim Voss


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The labor movement is a broad, multidimensional social formation that is generated from the social structures of work and industry in a society. It may comprise both legally recognized and formally sanctioned institutions (like trade unions, political parties, and works councils) as well as less formal groupings of workers and their allies (industrial actions, organizations of strike supporters, dissident movements within unions, cultural forms, etc.). Labor movements operate at the intersection of economic practice, civil society, and the state. They are more or less firmly institutionalized in any given society in any given historical period, and can be partly characterized by the extent to which extra-institutional practices are permitted and have been incorporated into the routine operations of industrial and labor relations. The social and organizational composition of a labor movement as well as the degree to which its practices have been institutionalized are thus two important analytical axes through which the social logic of a labor movement can be discerned. Having been born in and by the industrial order, the labor movements of the most developed capitalist societies generally took on their characteristic appearance over the course of the nineteenth century, with political parties and trade unions being the most prevalent organizational forms. Contrary to conventional ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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