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Made in Sheffield

Made in Sheffield: An Ethnography of Industrial Work and Politics

Massimiliano Mollona
Series: Dislocations
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Made in Sheffield
    Book Description:

    In 1900, Sheffield was the tenth largest city in the world. Cutlery "made in Sheffield" was used across the globe, and the city built armored plate for the navy in the run-up to the First World War. Today, however, Sheffield's derelict Victorian shop floors and industrial buildings are hidden behind new leisure developments and shopping centers.

    Based on an extended period of research in two local steel factories, this book combines a lively, descriptive account with a wide-ranging critique of post-industrial capitalism. Its central argument is that recent government attempts to engineer Britain's transition to a post-industrial and classless society have instead created volatile post-industrial spaces marked by informal labor, industrial sweatshops and levels of risk and deprivation that divide citizens along lines of gender, age, and class. The author discovers a link between production and reproduction, and demonstrates the centrality of kinship relations, child and female labor, and intra-household exchanges to the economic process of de-industrialization. Paradoxically, government policies have reinvigorated working-class militancy, spawned local industrial clusters and re-embedded the economy in the spatial and social structure of the neighborhood.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-902-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Notes on Text
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Made in Sheffielddiscusses the experience of labour of some steelworkers from Sheffield by combining anthropology and class analysis and through a critical engagement with sociology and economics.

    First, it bridges the sociological and the anthropological traditions ‘bringing back’ issues of production, labour value and class struggle from the oblivion of postmodern anthropological studies of consumption and identity politics. The book is partly inspired by the industrial ethnographies of the Chicago School of Anthropology and the Manchester School in Britain,¹ vociferous critics of the Fordist regime of industrialization at home and in the colonies. Within the tradition of the Manchester...

  7. Part I: Artisans

    • Chapter One Morris Ltd
      (pp. 19-44)

      Morris Ltd is a firm that produces tools with a small and non-unionised workforce and nineteenth-century machines. Always on the verge of bankruptcy, especially in the Christmas period, Morris has survived shutdowns, short-times, redundancies, receiverships, reorganizations, global mergers, flooding and the deaths of its more experienced workers. One day, one of the workers, aggravated by the prospect of another Christmas shutdown, exclaimed: ‘This place is not economical. It’s magical.’ The fact that the workers made a living using nineteenth-century machines on a derelict Victorian shop floor made Morris Ltd magical indeed. It is easy to understand why Morris Ltd is...

    • Chapter Two The ‘Return’ of the Informal Economy in Endcliffe
      (pp. 45-62)

      Endcliffe is located in the East End of Sheffield. In the West the city borders the Yorkshire moors, whereas the industrial landscape of the East End expands into the Lower Don Valley as far as Rotherham. People give different explanations for the fact that the steel industry developed in the East End of Sheffield. Geologists claim that Endcliffe was the natural location for the development of the iron and steel industry because it is right on the carboniferous coal measures that run along the Pennines. Economists stress the importance of the East coast for a supply of iron from Sweden....

    • Chapter Three Working-class Homes
      (pp. 63-78)

      Anthropologists have emphasized the importance of houses in building and reproducing social relations. For instance, Lévi-Strauss famously described ‘house societies’ (1983) as societies suspended between modernity and tradition and revolving around ‘the house’ as a symbolic mediator between the realm of kinship and the realm of the state. Pierre Bourdieu (1977) claims that the layout of Kabyle houses reproduces kinship ideologies and patriarchal divisions of labour in peasant societies; Steven Gudeman and Alberto Rivera (1990) suggest that ‘homes’ are metaphorical instances of the Columbian peasant economy; and Jeanette Edwards (2000) shows how working-class identity in a post-industrial village of northern...

    • Chapter Four Welcome to Political Limbo
      (pp. 79-102)

      In this chapter I discuss how the residents of Endcliffe were affected by and reacted to ‘de-industrialization’, labour deregulation and changes in welfare policies made by the central government. I have already described how the process of de-industrialization ‘from below’ empowered local environmental agencies and planning departments, channelled Lottery and European money from R&D and industrial training to the voluntary and community sectors, facilitated neighbourhood-based social enterprises and created a new legal framework for private, large-scale urban developments. Economically these policies boosted the leisure, voluntary and housing sectors at the expense of the manufacturing industry and diverted welfare entitlements from...

  8. Part II: Proletarians

    • Chapter Five Unsor Ltd
      (pp. 105-126)

      This chapter discusses the organizational change taking place in the UNSOR steel mini-mill following the merger of British Steel and the Dutch Hoogovens into Corus, the fifth-largest world steel producer.

      Shareholders and banks were preoccupied by the competitive position of UNSOR following the merger and pressed the employers to increase profits. In response, the employers reorganized the plant shifting to low quality production and flexible working patterns. This chapter focuses on two main themes. First, I explore the relations between the workers’ informal culture and their labour consciousness. On the one hand, a strong ‘shop floor culture’ increased productivity by...

    • Chapter Six A Divided Proletariat
      (pp. 127-142)

      In this chapter, I discuss the issue of working-class ‘bourgeoisification’ by looking at the lives of Charlie Moody and Toni Masso, two workers of UNSOR. Toni and Charlie resemble the ‘instrumental workers’ of Luton described by Lockwood and Goldthorpe (1967) in their ‘affluent workers project’. The authors found that the job satisfaction of the manual workers of the industrial town of Luton was unrelated to their position in the labour process, as sociologists suggested at the time, but depended on their personal expectations. For instance, the machinists and workers on the line of Vauxhall were more satisfied with their unskilled...

    • Chapter Seven Community Unionism, Business Unionism – Two Strategies, the Same Phoenix
      (pp. 143-166)

      Although the terms ‘community unionism’ and ‘social unionism’ are not synonymous, the emergence of community unionism is part of the broader process of the ‘socialization’ of industrial trade unions that took place in America and Britain during the 1980s. The chapter firstly discusses the theoretical and political context in which ‘social unionism’ emerged in Britain. Secondly, it provides an ethnographic description of ‘community unionism’, a trade union model introduced in Britain by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) under the social economy agenda of New Labour. Community unionism was implemented by the ISTC steel union (now ‘Community’) and rejected by the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 167-178)

    In the 1980s two revisionist trends of labour studies pointed towards the terminal decline of the Western working class. The first, which has been described as ‘New True Socialism’ (NTS),¹ suggests that organizational and technological improvements in industry create a category of ‘core’ wage-workers with salaries and working conditions comparable to those of the middle class. This ‘bourgeoisification’ of the working class nullifies the Marxist vision of class struggle based on the clear-cut opposition between ‘proletarians’ and ‘bourgeoisie’. NTS scholars suggest that the new revolutionary subjects are those non-class-based marginal or subaltern political formations dislocated by post-Fordism. The second tradition...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-188)
  11. Index
    (pp. 189-201)