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Digital activism and the political culture of trade unionism

Dencik, Lina and Wilkin, Peter 2020. Digital activism and the political culture of trade unionism. Information, Communication and Society 23 (12) , pp. 1728-1737. 10.1080/1369118X.2019.1631371

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The place of digital activism in relation to trade unionism is a crucial area of concern at a time when conditions of work, and the ability to protect workers’ rights, have been transformed by a congruence of technological developments, neoliberal ideology and rising corporate power. In this brief essay, we situate digital activism in the context of the political cultures of trade unionism, highlighting in particular three fundamental divisions that have marked their development: 1) reform vs. revolution; 2) internationalism vs. nationalism; and 3) the relationship with political parties and business. Whilst this has meant that there have been elements of conflict and factional alliances within the labour movement, the dominant form of trade unionism, certainly in Europe and North America, advanced a position based on a corporatist model rooted in hierarchical structures, centralized control and formal routes of negotiation, most notably through collective bargaining agreements, and often centred on a strong sense of national identity. Digital activism and the uprisings of recent years have pointed to the possibilities for wider, societal and more militant forms of resistance to emerge that have also been reflected in changes in the labour movement. Only by integrating digital activism as part of more horizontal worker-driven forms of organization and articulating an alternative vision of society (including the organization of technology) in alliance with other communities and social movements, can the labour movement start to rise to the challenges of the current crises facing the world system.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1369-118X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 26 June 2019
Date of Acceptance: 7 June 2019
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2021 11:02

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