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'There is power in a union': A strategic-relational perspective on power resources
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'There is power in a union': A strategic-relational perspective on power resources

16 Seiten · 3,39 EUR
(06. Juli 2017)

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As singer-songwriter Billy Bragg suggests in the lyrics to his song "There Is Power in A Union" (1986), the labour question is a question of power. Numerous labour scholars follow this route when they analyse labour relations and the strategic choices of workers. They establish how workers make use of 'power resources' when they act collectively; for them, the composition of these power resources accounts for strategic choices.

Arguably, the power resource approach (PRA) has become one of the most popular methodologies in the field of labour studies. Its attractiveness lies in the fact that it offers a clearly defined conceptual framework providing parsimonious explanations for empirical observations in the field. In this article, I want to provide a critical appraisal of this methodology.

In particular, I discuss a tension visible in the conceptual framework of the PRA: it assumes that the mobilisation of institutional power resources both represent an exercise of workers’ power and a set of activities with potentially detrimental effects on that power. In my view, it is possible to alleviate this tension by reconceptualising power resources with reference to the insights of materialist class and state theory. I will briefly sketch how this can be done by drawing upon Bob Jessop’s strategic-relational approach and Nicos Poulantzas’s conjunctural Marxism.

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the author
Alexander Gallas
Alexander Gallas

Assistant Professor at the Department of Politics at the University of Kassel, Germany. His research interests include strikes and industrial action, labour relations in Europe, class theory and state theory. He is Editor of the Global Labour Journal and has written a monograph entitled The Thatcherite Offensive: A Neo-Poulantzasian Analysis