9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN06 Critical Political Economy

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Resistance and the Search for Alternatives Building AA, AA.323

Post-industrial class action in a context of crisis

The crucial issue for social and political mobilization in Europe in the context of the most serious crisis of capitalism since the 1930s is the "failure of commitment to founding projects" of Europe┬┤s mass membership "left" parties. Communist and socialist parties were originally committed to the transformation of capitalism into socialism with the demarcating element of change being the abolition of the wage labour relationship. The word originally is emphasized because by the 1980s no mass membership party could still be described as transformational in its objectives. Instead they had become social democratic parties which wanted to manage capitalist markets through the attainment and application of state power so as to ensure that workers are not massively exploited through the development of redistributive progressive tax funded welfare, the defence of the workers┬┤capacity to maintain wages through collective organization, and the maintenance of full employment through macro-economic management which reduces the capacity of capital to deploy reserve armies of labour in order to increase exploitation at the point of production. Whilst there were important differences in relation to social politics, these objectives were also those of christian democratic parties and national republican parties, and even of "One Nation" British Conservatism. Beginning with Thatcherism in the UK in the 1980s this changed and the social market project was replaced by increasingly enthusiastic endorsement of the sovereignty of unfettered markets, with UK New "Labour" representing an extreme case. European political elites are now confronted with a fundamental failure of markets, are frantically trying to resurrect macro-economic social market tools, and have no sense of any transformational project. At the same time the industrial structure which sustained in particular the cultural forms of class identity across Europe has been massively eroded by deindustrialization and much of Europe must be described as "post-industrial" whilst the great majority of people remain objectively proletarian. This paper will address the issue of how class action might be remobilized for a transformational project and will draw on the work of Raymond Williams in relation to residual and emergent unincorporated cultural forms as a basis for its arguments.