Dockworker Power and Capitalist Totality: A Critique of the Power Resources Approach

Wednesday 12th May 2021 (14:00-15:00)
Please contact for the link

With Caitlin Fox-Hodess, University of Sheffield.

This presentation draws on research conducted since 2018 in forty cities in twenty countries with affiliates of the International Dockworkers Council, a global union organisation. The central role played by dockworkers in the global circulation of commodities, the inherently international character of their labour and the power deriving from their ability to impede circulation through industrial action suggest that dockworkers should have a high degree of structural power.

Nevertheless, contrary to what the dominant theoretical framework for understanding worker power, known as the Power Resource Approach (PRA) might predict, despite their central role in the global circulation of commodities, dockworkers’ power is uneven across countries. This is because their ability to effectively disrupt circulation through industrial action is highly dependent on national conditions -- in particular, by various forms of state repression and the availability of both national and international allies.

An alternative framework, drawing on the work of Marxist state theorist Nicos Poulantzas, is proposed to examine worker power relationally, vis a vis both capital and the state, and conjuncturally, within specific national social formations, addressing both economistic and Eurocentric biases in the existing literature. Implications of the revised framework for understanding worker power on the development of effective global union strategy.

This is an online seminar and all are welcome. Please contact for the link.

Part of the Economic Worlds Seminar Series.

School of Geography

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