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A reasonable negotiation? Workplace‐based unionists’ subjectivities, wage negotiations, and the day‐to‐day life of an ethical‐political project

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journal contribution
posted on 18.08.2021, 08:10 by Thomas McNamaraThomas McNamara

This article analyses how, through adopting responsibility for their co-workers’ livelihoods, workplace-based unionists shaped Zambian mining capitalism. I argue that union branch executives learnt that they could best assist their co-workers through offering them financial services and through co-operation with company HR. During wage negotiations, unionists drew strength from this understanding, encouraging them to see ever-decreasing salaries as market-driven, and discouraging the militancy that has on occasion raised wages. Building upon the anthropology of trade unionism, I detail how tangible solidarities within a workplace shape unions’ ethical-political projects; and argue that subjectivation through union ideologies can discourage scrutiny of structural injustice. Linking anthropology that explores capitalism through relationships and moral norms to liberalized capital's disempowerment of unions, I claim that unionists’ moral, technical, and physical labour mitigated, yet inadvertently enabled, worsening working conditions.

History

Publication Date

01/09/2021

Journal

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Volume

27

Issue

3

Article Number

1467-9655.13420

Pagination

21p. (p.617-637)

Publisher

Wiley

ISSN

1359-0987

Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

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