“We are a service class”: a workers’ inquiry into the class composition of service commodity production during the unreal interregnum

Cant, Callum (2020) “We are a service class”: a workers’ inquiry into the class composition of service commodity production during the unreal interregnum. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Abstract

It is half a century since the British workers’ movement went into decline. This downwards trajectory was not reversed by the financial crisis of 2008 – in fact, if anything, it was accelerated by it. Levels of working class self-organisation and collective action in the sphere of production remain at historic lows. This lack of activity has left us trapped in a long decade of crisis, subject to a deeply unequal balance of class forces. This thesis makes two contributions to understanding how this impasse might come to an end by focusing on the class composition of one fraction of the contemporary British working class: young, low-paid, service workers who are disconnected from the institutions of the workers’ movement. First, it develops an original theoretical framework for the analysis of class composition on the basis of a 3-part model (technical, social, and political). This framework uses original readings of Marx, the socialist feminist tradition, and Lenin in order to analyse working class organisation in the sphere of production through a consistent system of categories founded in the materialist analysis of social relations. Second, it presents the results of a workers’ inquiry made up of three case studies into three separate workplaces in Brighton. This study found a class fraction which is subject to intense systems of managerial control – but which also has the capacity to throw those systems into disarray. Below the surface of the service sector, many of the conditions necessary for a rapid shift in the balance of class forces are present. What’s missing is a subjective spark – a spark which could be provided by the significant minority of workers who are sympathetic with political militancy, and whose agitation might prove capable of starting a process of associational amplification through which the fraction first struggles for their immediate economic interests, and then leaps into the fight for their more fundamental political ones. Such a leap, if merged with the concerted efforts of socialists to create mechanisms for the expression of this antagonism at the political level, might offer some hope, as the long post-crisis decade comes to an end with an unparalleled global interruption of capital valorisation as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Social sciences > Politics
Depositing User: Callum Cant
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2021 22:23
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:15
URI: http://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/7785

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