Class consciousness among engineering shop stewards on Clydeside

Brown, James Lee (1981) Class consciousness among engineering shop stewards on Clydeside. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine the forms and contents of class consciousness among engineering shop stewards. Why the shop stewards of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Engineering Section) (A.U.E.W. (E.S.)) on Clydeside were chosen is explained in the Introduction. A Marxian orientation was used to develop the theoretical premises which directed the study. It was on this basis that generalisation and assertions about class consciousness were made. In Chapter One alternative approaches to the study of class consciousness were examined, but asserted to be less strong than the Marxian one adopted. From the Marxian orientation adopted, shop stewards were viewed as objectively working class because of their position in the social division of labour. This position led to them having a class interest which expressed itself in understanding the need for political class struggle, an awareness of the nature of the state, and a strategic comprehension of how to realise a society which would satisfy their interests. This expression of class interest was asserted to focus on the nature of the solidarity shown by the stewards. By examining the scope of solidarity the stewards believed should be given to other workers, a means of differentiating their class consciousness was found. In Chapter Two the basic characteristics of the shop stewards were examined to assess their similarities with other studies. This involved examining their back grounds; how and why they became stewards; and how they functioned as stewards. In Chapter Three the election addresses of those who have stood for full time office were examined to help delineate the ideological positions which exist in the Union. This allowed six forms of consciousness to be outlined amongst candidates for office, and among shop stewards in the sample. This connection was made by examining the stewards attitudes to issues found in the election addresses, e.g. amalgamation, the role of trade unions. Chapter Four examined the types of solidarity actions the stewards had been involved in. This allowed judgements to be made of how far they had overcome the fragmentations and divisions between workers, and so approached realisations of their objective class interests. It was shown that awareness of a common identity as workers, and an opposition to employers existed, though limitations were also found. It was suggested that the roots of this awareness are to be found in themes of moralism and egalitarianism developed from the stewards life experiences and their reflections upon them. In Chapter Five the focus was on the strategic perspectives for fundamental change in society held by the stewards. This was suggested as the rational theme in class consciousness. It was investigated by considering how far the stewards were able to suggest paths for altering society in a Socialistic direction. This revealed elements of Socialist class consciousness among a majority of the stewards. However, its development in coherent and substantive forms was shown to be limited to a small group of stewards. Chapter Six, on the basis of limited biographical data, attempted to trace the causes of shop stewards developing specific forms of consciousness. Through pen portraits of six stewards it was shown how some stewards have been blocked from developing a fully coherent Socialist class consciousness, and how others overcame the obstacles. The themes of moralism, egalitarianism and rationalism were shown to exist in different strengths and combinations among the stewards. The development of Socialist class consciousness was suggested to depend upon the stewards having been involved with others who can reinforce environmental and background factors favouring deviation from dominant assumptions. The value of this study lies in its contribution to understanding the strong traditions of solidarity in unionism, and the different scope and meaning given to it. It develops knowledge of forms and contents of class consciousness and shows the importance of themes of rationalism, egalitarianism and moralism. These give different political goals and can lead to contradictions and competitive struggles between workers. A vital defining feature of Socialist class consciousness was shown to be a strategic perspective. Its development was linked to the encapsulation of the steward in oppositional environments which reinforce elements in their background. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Labor relations
Date of Award: 1981
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1981-72226
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 15:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72226

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