Beyond 'Political Economism’: New Identities for Trade Unions in Western Europe?

TitleBeyond 'Political Economism’: New Identities for Trade Unions in Western Europe?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsTaylor, Graham, Mathers, Andrew, and Upchurch, Martin
JournalCapital & Class
Pagination17 - 24
Date Published2012///
KeywordsEuropean integration, neoliberalism, regulation theory, social democracy, Union identity

This article engages critically with Richard Hyman’s work on union identity and European integration. It includes a sympathetic review of Hyman’s contribution to the debate on these topics over the past two decades, alongside a critique of Hyman’s approach that highlights certain weaknesses and contradictions resulting from his uncritical use of a range of categories and concepts taken from regulation theory. The authors question Hyman’s argument that developments in European unionism can be conceptualised adequately through an analysis of the development and crisis of ‘political economism’: a dominant union identity that Hyman aligns with the development and crisis of Fordism. An alternative model for understanding the reorientation of European unions is presented based on a critical and dialectical conceptualisation of the relationship between unions and capitalist development. This is used to construct a model of contemporary union reorientation along the dimensions of ‘accommodation’ and ‘opposition’ to neoliberalism and to ‘national’ and ‘international’ modes of organisation and mobilisation.