books


pcApologies for lateness! Paul Mason’s book PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future came out in 2015. However it wasn’t until the victory of Donald Trump that I realised how important it was. Do yourself a favour: grab a copy of this book and get familiar with the mess we’re in. Come to terms with the fact we won’t be saved by Bernie Sanders, yet alone Hillary Clinton.

That said, it’s not a grim read. Quite the opposite. I remember thinking so furiously as I was reading it that my internal discussions kept drowning out the text. It was like singing along (albeit terribly) to a new favourite song. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It didn’t really matter whether I was agreeing or disagreeing with what he saying (I was doing a bit of both); it was just bloody good fun.

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DAWPerhaps the left is not as divided as the right would have us believe.

Back in 2011 we looked at four alternatives to capitalism that had been proposed since 2000 (see http://goo.gl/GB7Qs). All of the models had one thing in common: they all called for the democratization of work. In 2008 this became one of New Unionism’s four key principles (more). Of course, the Bolivarians have been saying this for years (recently here). And Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky have since joined the chorus (here and here). Now there’s a major new voice provides a thumping bass: Richard Wolff’s “Workplace Democracy: A Cure for Capitalism” (Haymarket 2013).

In many ways, Wolff’s book is the one to start with. You might then go on to read about socialist markets, participatory economics or occupational citizenship (a la Schweickart, Albert and Standing respectively), but at least you’d have done the big-picture thinking first.

Let me try to provide an overview in one paragraph, for those who can’t afford $15 +p&p (order here).  Apologies to Prof Wolff for what follows — one must murder in order to dissect. Eighteenth century revolutions in France and the USA delivered people from monarchy and ushered in a new age of democracy. Or so the dominant narrative would have us believe. In reality, democracy was never extended into the field of economics. Rather, the revolutions delivered control of production and distribution into the hands of the emerging capitalist class. Something similar happened with the Russian revolution, although it was the State and the Party that ended up with control of economics. Wolff argues that the people who produce the goods (or services) should be the same folks who decide on what to do with the value they create. He explains his rationale quite logically (there is no trace of table-thumping in this book), and puts up a pretty convincing case for the view that this would change dynamics right at the base of society. Workplace democracy may not be a solution to the cycle of crises in itelf, but at long last it allows for solutions to emerge. Hell, we might even survive as a species. (more…)

Network member Mike Waghorne warmly recommends Asbjørn Wahl’s new book ‘The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State’, published by Pluto Press and available for browsing or purchase here. Mike writes:

Many unions will be offended by this book because Wahl criticises their ignorance of how the welfare state came to be won but also because too many of them remain overly committed to social dialogue in circumstances where it is no longer a valid model, given that ‘the other two sides’ have repudiated, in fact if not in PR stances, the consensus and class compromise on which it was built. (more…)

Generally speaking, the term ‘casual’ has positive connotations – relaxed, informal, easy-going. Applied to the world of labour, though, the reverse is true. It describes a situation of increasingly insecure, pressure-driven employment, at the whim of employers whose demands may chop and change, forcing millions of workers to realign their lives, routines and other commitments in their struggles to get by: less casuals than casualties.

Passing the Buck: Corporate Restructuring and the Casualisation of Employment is the latest volume in the excellent Work Organisation Labour and Globalisation series*. It is reviewed here by Richy Leitch. (more…)

If you’ve been puzzling over this whole #Occupy thing, Guy Standing’s latest book “The Precariat: The Dangerous New Class”(1) is essential reading. If you’re a unionist or center-left politician who’s been wondering where the hell your membership base went (and how to win it back), ditto.

If Standing(2) is correct, then we can expect movements like Occupy to evolve and grow. Unfortunately, we can also expect a continuing revival among the extreme right. Hence the word “dangerous” in the title of the book.

At the heart of Standing’s book is the contention that a new class is developing. Just as the rise of the “proletariat” (or industrial working class) changed the face of the 20th century, so is the rise of the “precariat”(3) affecting us today. The implications of this shift are no less radical. Unionists who ignore this change, or cling to hopes of a revival of the 20th century model, are already following in the footsteps of the Guilds. (more…)

Here’s an interview with Joe Burns, union negotiator, U.S. attorney and author of  “Reviving the Strike: How working people can regain power and transform America” (IG Publishing, 2011).

We contacted Joe after reading this book, which looks primarily at the situation in the U.S.A., and asked him what lessons other countries might take from his research. In short, he believes that we need to build a new unionism — one which is based on global solidarity and is willing and able to contest management decisions and, if necessary, stop production.
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‘Knowledge work’ is increasingly significant in global value chains – where creating, processing and transporting information plays a crucial role – but the analysis of this area of employment enjoys less attention. What is the scope for unionisation? How might this work across borders? The latest edition of the journal “Work, Organisation, Labour and Globalisation” (Getting the Message: Communications workers and global value chains, Ed Catherine McKercher and Vincent Mosco, Volume 4 no 2, 2010) looks at the growth of communication work and its political potential within the global economy. Richy Leitch reviews it for us below. You can buy the book or download the full text of individual articles here: http://goo.gl/IsN78. (more…)

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