Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Cultures of Solidarity

Cultures of Solidarity: Consciousness, Action, and Contemporary American Workers

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 315
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Cultures of Solidarity
    Book Description:

    A commonplace assumption about American workers is that they lack class consciousness. This perception has baffled social scientists, demoralized activists, and generated a significant literature on American exceptionalism. In this provocative book, a young sociologist takes the prevailing assumptions to task and sheds new light upon this very important issue. In three vivid case studies Fantasia explores the complicated, multi-faceted dynamics of American working-class consciousness and collective action.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90967-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Part One: Theoretical Directions and the Historical Terrain

    • Chapter One Culture and Consciousness in Action
      (pp. 3-24)

      Early in the 1980s the news media began to devote an unusual amount of attention to the issue of working-class consciousness. Two compelling, yet contrasting, developments fascinated the press. The first was the extraordinary labor upheaval in Poland, which appeared to shake a social order many had thought immutable. Forged out of the solidarity displayed in general strikes and buttressed by the threat of still more general strikes, the “class consciousness” of Polish workers riveted the attention of the Western press for months. The second development was the American labor movement’s seeming unresponsiveness toward President Reagan’s brazen assault on the...

    • Chapter Two Corporate Action and the Bounds of Solidarity
      (pp. 25-72)

      Chapter 1 introduced the concept of “cultures of solidarity” as a social encasement for the expression of working-class solidarity, an emergent cultural form embodying the values, practices, and institutional manifestations of mutuality. I described certain elements of a mass strike during the 1930s in Minneapolis in order to outline the contours of such solidarity, not because that decade represents the exclusive historical domain of solidarity, but because its depth and scope then were of such proportions as to exemplify class consciousness in an almost ideal-typical way. Although the task of illustration is thus made simpler, and the “compelling myth” has...

  5. Part Two: Contemporary Expressions of Consciousness and Action

    • Chapter Three The Internal Dynamics of Wildcat Strikes: Routinization and Its Discontents
      (pp. 75-120)

      In the previous chapter, I indicated in a general sense how the Taft-Hartley Act and the postwar social contract have molded the bureaucratic character of contemporary American unionism, limiting the open expression of militancy and solidarity. In this case study, I will examine the impact of this legacy on grievance resolution in a steel-casting factory, showing how rank-and-file union members sometimes circumvent the bureaucratic channels established to curtail open conflict by engaging in wildcat strikes that represent an implicit break in the social contract. An examination of the anatomy of two wildcat strikes raises significant questions about spontaneity, rationality, and...

    • Chapter Four Union Organizing and Collective Interaction: “Like a Thief in the Night”
      (pp. 121-179)

      As chapter 3 indicated, the legacy of the post-Taft-Hartley social contract weighs heavily on the structures and practices of contemporary trade unionism, which might serve as a pivotal basis for industrial action. But collective action is also often a crucial component of union formation, especially in the face of sharp employer resistance. This chapter examines the process of union organization by a group of women hospital workers. In this case, as in earlier periods of history, managerial counterstrategies combined paternalism and repression in an attempt to defeat the workers’ efforts, highlighting the jaggedness of the terrain that is the field...

    • Chapter Five The Strike as Emergent Culture: Community and Collective Action
      (pp. 180-225)

      It has been argued in different forums and in different ways that contemporary American society is immune to the open class warfare that once punctuated its history and that conflict, if it is expressed, remains contained within the workplace. This is certainly the case for the most part and reflects an important reality, as the previous accounts demonstrate. But as the third study in this book will indicate, the tenor of recent conflict sometimes recalls the battles of an earlier era in many important respects, though there are crucial differences.

      As pointed out previously, strikebreaking has a rich history in...

    • Chapter Six The Limits and Possibilities of Trade Union Action
      (pp. 226-246)

      On 13 December 1981 a tiny (one square inch) news item appeared in theNew York Times. Datelined Brindisi, Italy, the item read in full:

      Workers protesting the layoff of 25,000 employees by Italy’s ailing chemical giant, Montedison, briefly closed down this southern industrial city today. The police said that the workers occupied the airport, sealed the main railroad station, blocked major highways and took over the Montedison plant. They left peacefully in the afternoon.

      That was all. Apparently noTimesreporter was on the scene (the story was taken from the AP wire), and there were no follow-up stories...

  6. Appendix The Measures Taken: Some Notes on Methodology
    (pp. 247-254)
  7. Notes
    (pp. 255-282)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-296)
  9. Index
    (pp. 297-304)