Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Kees van der Pijl
Chapter 16: Work, power and the urban poor
Throughout most of the twentieth century social unrest, political turbulence and politics were seen to originate in the conflicts between different power groups surrounding production. Even ethnically or religious based movements were couched in material terms – peasant wars of liberation were also peasant wars against landlords. In the industrialized countries politics were considered the result of the capitalist–worker relations in various disguises. During this period workplace power relations were routinely discussed under the headings of ‘industrial relations’ or in terms of Marxist class war. These constructions in turn were based on the presence of overt social organizations capable of representation. Trade unions were key in the century-long development of the idea of tripartite (state–union–employer) power relations. At the same time revolutionary political parties were said to be leading the working class, which was in a subordinate position in production.
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