Sunday, 22 November 2009

A New Regime of Subordination


This weekend I attended the 6th Critical Labour Studies symposium. The symposium this year had the title Crisis what Crisis: Forward to the Past? and brought together a first class range of speakers who focused on topics ranging from trade union responses to lean production in the UK car industry to the challenges of undertaking research around migration.

You can read further information about the Critical Labour Studies network at you can also register for e-mail updates at:

A summary of the work of the network:

Through CLS we have developed an open working group and discussion forum that engages with many of the challenges facing researchers and trade unionists within the current environment of work and employment. By 'labour', we anticipate, in the traditions of radical researchers over the ages, a broad understanding of myriad social, economic and political agendas.

I particularly enjoyed the discussion around the launch of a new book (pictured) which charted to trade union response to the introduction of lean production techniques in UK car manufacturing. The speakers Tony Richardson and Ken Murphy (ex and current car workers and TU activists) and Paul Stewart (Strathclyde Uni) presented an engaging analysis of how the trade union movement around car manufacturing had interpreted the distinct aspects of the emerging production regime and attempted to limit its most damaging aspects.

The book was launched last week at the BMW plant at Cowley, Oxford and can be bought from Pluto Press (for an extremely reasonable £15). Follow this link to purchase the book:

I took the title for this post from the introduction to the book which essentially presents lean production as yet another exploitative framework from which workers are expected (as Ken Murphy stated) to 'give more for less'.

Interestingly, just prior to the session on the book the conference focus was on the introduction of lean managment methods within revenue and customs offices within the UK.

From a purely personal perspective I contributed to both discussions from the viewpoint that current education methodologies adopted by many trade unions limited (or explicitly excluded) the oppotunity for new trade union reps to develop a sufficient political consciousness to interpret and analyse these developments and so make historical and global connections.

The event was definitely one of those that I would strongly encourage colleagues to attend who want to engage in debate on topics that are thoughtfully presented and which pose key challenges/opportunities to the future of organised labour.

No question this time, just wanted to encourage interest in CLS and the new book.




ToadBoy said...

More junketing!

What a nice life - don't you have a proper job?

PS Nothing new about subordination - as old as the trade union movement

Ian Manborde said...

Hey TB,

Glad to see that you are still providing lengthy, highly analytical interpretations of whatever I have posted a discussion item around.

I can gladly defend attendance at the CLS event (not junketing by the way - all paid for out of my own pocket) as a great yearly opportunity to bring together trade unionists and academics to systematically interpret key issues facing organised labour or workers generally.

In fact even a cynical wretch like you could benefit from a short time in a stimulating, challenging environment.

Why don't you try it? As I've said to you before, it's dead easy to sit on the sidelines and chuck in the odd sarcastic comment, but more challenging to think about what I am commenting on and contribute a lucid, cogent response.

I dare you to try something you don't normally: stop, think, think again and then post something.