A reappraisal of the rank-and-file versus bureaucracy debate

Darlington, Ralph and Upchurch, Martin (2012) A reappraisal of the rank-and-file versus bureaucracy debate. Capital & Class, 36 (1). pp. 77-95. ISSN 0309-8168

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0309816811430369

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Abstract

This paper celebrates some of the considerable strengths of Hyman’s 1970s/early 1980s analysis of unions in general and bureaucracy specifically, and reapplies it to more recent developments within British unions, while at the same time providing a critique of Hyman’s refutation of the ‘rank-and-file’ versus ‘union bureaucracy’ conception of intra-union relations. It argues that the wider set of implications Hyman drew from the accentuated pressures towards the bureaucratisation of workplace unionism that he identified ‘bent the stick’ too far in the opposite direction. In attempting to defend and refine the classical revolutionary Marxist analytical framework, the paper maintains that the conflict of interest that exists between full-time officials and rank-and-file members is a meaningful generalisation of a real contradiction within trade unionism, notwithstanding the variations and complexities involved. It examines the nature and social dynamics of full-time union officialdom, shop stewards and workplace unionism, and the relationship between the two. In the process, the limits and potential of both Hyman’s ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ writings are highlighted and some broader generalisations are drawn with relevance to current dilemmas for trade unionism.

Item Type:Article
Keywords (uncontrolled):Richard Hyman; bureaucracy; rank-and-file; trade union
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations > Employment Relations group
ID Code:8447
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Deposited On:13 Feb 2012 05:18
Last Modified:05 Dec 2014 02:18

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