Industrial democracy, incorporation and control : Britain, 1945-1980
Gold, Michael D
The principal purpose of this thesis is to explain the significance of moves towards industrial democracy in Britain since the Second World War. It attempts not only to outline a comprehensive 'conceptual map' of the literature on the subject, but also to define the limits of what industrial democracy - in its various forms - can achieve within the context of an advanced, neo-capitalist society. Part I contains a sustained critique of liberal pluralist approaches to industrial relations which leads, in Part II, to an analysis of power relations in industry focusing on the Gramscian concepts of 'hegemony' and 'contradictory consciousness'. It is shown that, although workers often express socially consensual attitudes in abstract terms, their behaviour reflects conflictual responses whenever their interests are threatened on the shop-floor. However, the 'non-observable' aspects of power (such as property relations, the legal framework and the division of labour) constrain the kinds of action workers may undertake through its 'observable' aspects (such as collective bargaining or consultation). In Part III, it is argued that managements try to use forms of industrial democracy to incorporate workers' behaviour - many of their organizations already having been incorporated - but that such attempts tend to fail because of structural tensions at the non-observable level. Since unions also use forms of industrial democracy to extend their own marginal power, the meaning of· the term is best seen as centring on the 'frontier of control' between the two sides of industry and analysable by level, area (or subject matter) and method of influence. The development of industrial democracy in these terms - with particular reference to job-restructuring, consultation, collective bargaining and worker directors - is examined for the period 1945-1980. It is found that both sides of industry use different forms of industrial democracy in an opportunistic way to pursue their own interests at the 'frontier of control'. Part IV, however, investigates the circumstances in which groups of workers have tried to 'break through' the institutional framework of the 'non-observable' aspects of power in order to establish an organization of industry which structurally favours their own interests. The role of union trustees on the boards of occupational pension funds is investigated, as are work-ins, social audits, co-operatives and workers' alternative corporate plans. The thesis concludes that democratic planning must be systematically introduced at all levels of industry if radical industrial democracy is to flourish.