Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Blue Singlets and Broccoli: Culture in the Service of Union Struggle

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2000), 79, (1), 35–56.

Abstract

This article analyses the so-called ‘Third Wave’ campaign in Western Australia in 1997 in order to study the dynamics of union culture as a ‘lived practice’. The research uses a mixed-methods approach, drawing on a variety of data collected as part of the recording of a ‘people’s history’ for the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (Perth Branch). The analysis takes as its starting point the need to hold in tension Raymond Williams’ notion of culture as a ‘whole way of life’ and E.P. Thompson’s notion of it as a ‘whole way of struggle’. Four themes are examined: the eclecticism of the unions’ cultural strategies, the nature of the union cultural strategy as at one and the same time ‘manufactured’ and spontaneous, the ideological content of union cultural practices as well as the use of ‘the politics of pleasure’, and the role of culture in both maintaining and transforming ‘old orders’, both internally and in the wider society. What emerges from the study is a picture of the ways in which union culture can be used strategically by unions for campaigning purposes. This study reveals a complex, multi-stranded view of union culture(s) that can be contrasted to the hegemonic, uni-dimensional view of union culture promoted by governments, employers and the media.

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Details

Author details

Bailey, Janis

Table of Contents

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