5 Questions on worker Mutualism

5 Question based on the reading pdf below. Short Answer. The reading is long but you don’t have to read the whole thing. Just find the answer from the readings.From Worker Mutualism in age of entrepreneurial capitalism1. Define “worker mutualism”. 2. How does “worker mutualism” differ from individualistic competition?3. List the three new forms of “worker mutualism”.From Hamper and Kelley1. From the Hamper reading, give an example of “worker mutualism”.2. From the Kelley reading, give an example of “worker mutualism”.


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Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic
relations of work
ISSN: 1030-1763 (Print) 2325-5676 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rlab20
Worker mutualism in an age of entrepreneurial
Dorothy Sue Cobble
To cite this article: Dorothy Sue Cobble (2016) Worker mutualism in an age of entrepreneurial
capitalism, Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, 26:3, 179-189,
DOI: 10.1080/10301763.2016.1205939
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10301763.2016.1205939
Published online: 26 Sep 2016.
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Download by: [Purdue University Libraries]
Date: 06 September 2017, At: 06:43
VOL. 26, NO. 3, 179–189
Worker mutualism in an age of entrepreneurial capitalism
Dorothy Sue Cobble
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School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick,
In this Keynote Address to the 30th AIRAANZ Conference in
Sydney, the author identi?es three vital and promising models of
worker mutualism. These models show that worker mutualism is
thriving, even in an era of entrepreneurial and hyper-individualistic
capitalism. Indeed, we are at a moment of recovery and recon?guration for labour and labour movements globally. The three
models of worker mutualism are set within a larger context. The
author challenges three mythic narratives: labour decline, workingclass conservatism and the association of the rise of new forms of
work with rising economic inequality that keep scholars from
thinking clearly about worker mutualism and entrepreneurial
Received 3 May 2016
Accepted 22 June 2016
Worker mutualism;
entrepreneurial capitalism;
emotional proletariat;
precarious; global labour
I am honoured and pleased to be speaking at the 30th anniversary gathering of
AIRAANZ. Yesterday’s conference truly lived up to Johanna MacNeil’s charge to us in
her Presidential Address (2016): it was civil, collegial and collectivist. I look forward to
more of the same over the next few days.
I’ve titled my talk ‘Worker Mutualism in an Age of Entrepreneurial Capitalism’, and
part of what I will do this morning is lay out what I see as today’s most vital and
promising models of worker mutualism. Each of the models has roots in the past; none is
wholly new. But each derives its strength, at least in part, by being forward-looking and
open to new ways of organising work and representing workers. And each shows that
worker mutualism is thriving, even in an era of entrepreneurial capitalism often judged
hostile to cooperation and collective advance. We are at a moment of recovery and
recon?guration for labour and labour movements. The pendulum of history is starting to
swing away from hyper-individualism and back toward social solidarity.
Let me begin by setting the larger context for my discussion of speci?c models of
worker mutualism. The context I have in mind is not the conventional one. I want to
challenge three widespread myths that dominate our narratives about work and workers. These myths are troubling because they make it harder for us to think clearly about
worker mutualism and about entrepreneurial capitalism. And because they go unchallenged, they circulate and replicate, becoming the untested foundational premises on
which theories and politics are constructed. They could be thought of as bad academic
CONTACT Dorothy Sue Cobble
© 2016 AIRAANZ
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memes – half-truths that spread, propagate and mutate in part because of their
psychological appeal and their super?cial plausibility.
The decline of labour, the ?rst myth I’ll discuss, is one of the most deeply embedded
assumptions of our time. It’s also untested and, in my view, wrong.
It rests on the analytical fallacy of taking a small subset of nations – the richer, postindustrial nations – and confusing them for the whole. It is true: trade union membership has fallen in almost all OECD countries, with some of the steepest declines in
countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand (Visser 2006, 43). But these
trends are not universal. And if we look at trade union membership globally, a di?erent
picture emerges: one of growth not decline.
Take the most recent ?gures from the bible of global labour statistics: the Historical
Dictionary of Organized Labor, third edition, edited by Australian researcher James C.
Docherty and his associate Sjaak van der Velden at the Institute for Social History in
Amsterdam. In 1970, they estimate (2012, 10, 18–19), there were 98 million union
members worldwide (not including China); 40 years later, in 2010, they count
175 million (again, not including China and the 200 million members in the All-China
Federation of Trade Unions). In other words, despite the well-publicised declines of
organised labour in Western economies, union ranks worldwide rose 78% in the last
40 years, gaining 77 million members.
How can this be? Gains in union membership in Africa, Asia, Latin America and
Eastern Europe, they ?nd, more than o?set declines in the older, industrial economies.
Indeed, the global growth of organised labour, they modestly conclude, ‘is one of the
unsung success stories of modern world history’ (Docherty and van der Velden 2012, 10,
I refer you to their long discussion – it takes up almost a third of the volume – for
more detail on sources, methodology and the myriad ways available data overestimates
and underestimates union membership. There is no doubt that we need more data on
union membership, especially global data, as well as more research and analysis of
global union trends, but their volume stands as one of the most reliable overviews we
have. I should note too that Docherty and van der Velden are no longer alone in their
challenge to the ‘decline of labour’ trope. There’s a small tsunami of push-back beginning to build – fuelled by quite recent global studies like the 2015 analysis of trade
union membership in 94 countries done by New Zealand-based Peter Hall-Jones at ‘New
Unionism’ (2015, 1–9) – all pointing to the same global rise in trade union membership.
But the narrative of labour decline rests on a second analytical fallacy. All too often
we de?ne the labour movement narrowly and make the mistake of con?ating the labour
movement with contract unionism. The labour movement, however, has never just been
about collective bargaining. When we look only at data on worker organisations
engaged primarily in bargaining contracts we are capturing part of the labour movement but not the whole. Missing are the millions of workers in what I call the ‘other’
labour movement (Cobble 2010a, 18; Cobble and Merrill 2014, 40).
Let me talk for a minute about this ‘other’ or missing labour movement – what
journalist Josh Eidelson (2013, 24) dubs ‘alt-labour’. Although perceived as a new
development, it is actually a very old phenomenon. Think for a second about the
nineteenth-century labour movements in industrialising nations. Certainly workers
sought and secured contracts with employers. But much of their collective energies
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went elsewhere: into campaigns for the vote and full citizenship rights, into building
worker cooperatives, into movements for shorter hours and living wages, and into
political agitation for labour standard legislation and other government policies.
Today, once again, a broad and diverse alt-labour movement is ?ourishing, often with the
help of traditional contract unionism. We can see it in what Michele Ford and her co-authors
yesterday (2016) called ‘a resurgence of political unionism’ in Indonesia. We can see it in the
rise of new forms of worker institutions and associations in rich nations as well as poor, in the
global north as well as the global south. In this short talk I discuss only a small slice of the
emerging alt-labour movement. I won’t have time, for example, to detail the proliferation of
living wage, minimum wage or wage theft campaigns around the world – what I call the
global wage justice movement; or the explosion of immigrant worker rights centres and
other labour NGOs; or the new community-labour alliances or transnational networks
created by street vendors, waste pickers, home-based and other disenfranchised workers
(Luce 2014, 148–203; Milkman and Ott 2014; Bonner and Spooner 2011, 95–97). But let me
underscore that the larger context for the analysis of worker mutualism that follows is not
labour movement decline but labour movement growth and reconstitution. Alt-labour is on
the rise, and like the upward trends of trade union membership globally, its rise requires that
we rethink and rewrite the dominant narratives of labour’s demise.
Let me turn to myth two: working-class conservatism. The trope of the reactionary
worker (usually envisioned as male and blue-collar despite the demographic dominance
of women service workers in the bottom half of income-earners) has a long and
distinguished academic pedigree, especially in the United States (Cobble 2012, 35–37).
Reactionary workers (and their unions) are blamed for a range of social ills; while those
with more power – for example, the corporate or political elites – often escape scrutiny.
Workers (and working-class institutions) are held to a di?erent and harsher standard
than others and frequently tarred with such classist slurs as thuggish, corrupt, lazy or just
plain dumb.
George Orwell in ‘Politics and the English Language’ ([1946] 1971, 127–140) warned
us against ‘ready-made’ ideas – familiar, already-formulated clichés that ?y in from the
closest window and take over our prose – and our thoughts – if we let them. But despite
Orwell’s warning, the reactionary and morally retrograde blue-collar whipping boy is
trotted out again and again. This handy, ready-made cultural trope is worth resisting: it
demeans a broad swath of the population and sustains inequalities of power and wealth
by channelling anger and criticism away from those at the top.
I encounter the reactionary worker most frequently these days in political narratives,
where he has a starring role in the rise of the right. But once again aggregate data – this
time data on U.S. voting patterns – points in a di?erent direction than the anecdotal or
the ready-made.
I ?rst discovered the stark divergence between political narrative and political data in
depicting working-class sensibilities in the United States one Sunday morning after the
2004 Bush re-election when the New York Times helped lift my gloom with some
surprising charts. I was shocked to see how closely Presidential voting behaviour in
2004 correlated with income, with lower-income voters voting solidly Democratic,
middle-income voters more mixed and higher-income voters solidly Republican. And
that basic pattern of divergence by class, a kind of ‘class voting gap’, stretched back for
decades. If the bottom 45% of earners had been the only ones voting, the historical
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charts revealed, the United States would have had a solid string of Democratic presidents since the 1930s! (Cobble 2012, 37–39). Yet despite the persistently progressive
voting record of the bottom 45% of earners, the conservatism of the working classes
continues to ?gure prominently in popular and scholarly narratives. ‘Working-class
liberalism’ almost seems like an oxymoron.
But wait a minute, you might be thinking: what about Trump and his huge army of
disa?ected angry blue-collars? No doubt, Trump has ‘working-class’ support, especially if
‘working-class’ means, as is almost always the case, those without college degrees, a
group comprising some 70% of the American adult population. Few heed political
scientist Larry Bartels (2006, 207–209) stern admonition against using educational attainment instead of income as a proxy for social class. As it turns out, those ?ocking to
Trump’s rallies di?er from other Americans not by income but by being disproportionately white, male, old and rural! The majority of low-income voters, still loyal to the
Democratic Party, barely get a mention.
The now ubiquitous use of ‘precarious’ and ‘precarity’ perpetuates a third and ?nal
set of mythic narratives. Many assume we are experiencing an unprecedented rise of
new forms of work, often referred to as ‘precarious’ work or non-standard work, and
blame the shift toward non-standard jobs for rising economic insecurity and inequality.
Moreover, some argue, we are witnessing the creation of a new ‘precarious’ workforce or
‘precariat’, to use Guy Standing’s term from his global bestseller: The Precariat: The New
Dangerous Class (2011). I want to challenge, or at least raise questions, about all these
Let me be clear: if we de?ne ‘precarity’ narrowly as economic insecurity or ‘insecure
work’ as the Australian Fair Work Commission puts it, it is on the rise. But labels can
obscure as much as they reveal, and ‘precarious’ and ‘precarity’ have become such
labels. They are rabbit holes down which it is all too easy to disappear. Standing’s
‘precariat’, for example, includes those without economic security and those without
long-term tenure with a single employer. But it also includes those who are poor and
those who lack meaningful work, full citizenship rights and a sense of community and
social inclusion. That de?nition, it strikes me, is so broad as to be meaningless.
Instead of riding the precarity bandwagon, we need more clarity in our terms and
more of the hard work of ?guring out exactly what is changing in the world of work,
why, for whom and with what consequences. In the richer nations, some workers may
be witnessing a return to older forms of work arrangements – sub-contracted, casualised,
short-term – forms dominant before the rise of large vertically integrated corporate
structures and mass production. But it is not clear how fast these work arrangements are
growing in the aggregate and whether their growth helps explain the steep rise of
economic insecurity and inequality.
UC Berkeley economist Annette Bernhardt (2014) recently analysed national trends in
the United States over the last few decades using key indicators of nonstandard work:
self-employment, temporary and part-time work, sub-contracting and job instability. The
‘aggregate data’, she found, ‘did not show unambiguous increase in nonstandard forms
of work’ (2014, 2). Further, non-standard jobs displayed considerable diversity in permanence and work conditions, with ‘pernicious forms of nonstandard work’ concentrated in
speci?c industries and sub-contracting associated with industry consolidation and longterm employment as well as with fragmentation and impermanence. Aramark, for
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example, is a subcontractor but it claims a 29% share of the food service market and
employs full-time, long-term workers (2014, 13).
Bernhardt calls her study the ‘?at-line’ paper, and she cautions against blaming the
rise of nonstandard jobs for rising inequality and insecurity. Rather, she notes, jobs of all
sorts have seen wages fall and labour protections abandoned as the power of capital,
economic and political, has grown and neo-liberal policies have become the norm. Neoliberalism is the culprit, not new forms of work.
Of course, Bernhardt’s ?at-line ?ndings may not be true for other nations. But Kevin
Doogan in New Capitalism?: The Transformation of Work (2009) ?nds similar ?at-line
trends for nonstandard jobs in many European countries and spends much of the book
puzzling over how to explain the yawning gap between the breathless ‘narrativities’ of
work transformation and the statistical portraits of work continuity.
What does appear to be changing, however, is who holds nonstandard jobs, with
more men and more college-educated workers in these slots, especially in richer nations.
The shift in gender and class composition of nonstandard work helps explain, at least in
part, why such jobs are perceived as new and newly central to industrial economies.
Nonstandard work is a new phenomenon for many men and white-collar employees,
and because their work is routinely given disproportionate attention and taken as the
norm, their experiences end up being universalised. For the majority of women and lowincome workers, however, nonstandard work is old hat: they held such jobs in the past
and they still do (Cobble and Vosko 2000). Similarly, in poorer countries, the vast
majority, men and women, work in what was once termed the informal sector – toiling
without protections as vendors, homeworkers, small producers and day labourers – and
there most remain.
But what about Standing’s vision of the ‘precariat’ as a new and dangerous class? His
assertion does have its virtues: for one it is a reminder not to limit the working classes to
the factory proletariat. As scholars of household and agricultural economies, of slavery,
and of the subaltern have argued for some time now, when writing about work and
workers researchers must cast a wide net. But not everything caught in our wide net is
usefully analysed together or treated as a group. The precarious workforce, in my view,
hardly constitutes such a group or class, even one in the making. Precarious workers
come in all shapes and sizes, with some among the highest earners in today’s economy
and others among the lowest. Rather than look to the ‘precariat’ as the new vanguard
class, we need to think more about the rise of bad jobs, or ‘insecure work’, in all sectors
of the economy and how to boost the bargaining power of all kinds of workers, whether
standard or nonstandard, waged or unwaged, proletariat, salariat or ‘pink-collar’.
Let me shift from myths to models and to how workers of all sorts are boosting their
bargaining power collectively and inventing new forms of mutualism. I believe we are in
the midst of an upsurge of worker mutualism. It is a moment of experimentation and
invention as we transition to a new and recon?gured labour movement.
I’ll discuss three of what I see as today’s most promising models of worker mutualism.
I o?er three, not one, because we need multiple models of collectivity for today’s diverse
workforce. The sooner we discard the idea of a single, one-size-?ts-all approach to
organising and representing workers, the better o? we will be – theoretically and
politically. The three models I discuss are not mutually exclusive: there is overlap and
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many shared characteristics. No model is an island su?cient to itself, not even a
theoretical one.
I discovered model one, occupational unionism, in writing my ?rst book, Dishing It
Out (1991a), a history of waitresses and waitress unionism. One of the reasons I could
write such a book was that waitress unions, like many other kinds of occupational
unions, thrived in the past. Occupational unionism was a surprisingly e?ective form of
mutu …
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