Craig Phelan (ed.)
The Future of Organised Labour: Global Perspectives
Peter Lang, 2006, 404 pp.
ISBN: 3-03910-508-6 (pbk) 45 [pounds sterling]
Since the onset of neoliberal globalisation, labour has come under more and more pressure worldwide as a result of the increasingly transnational organisation of production and the concomitant deregulation of national labour markets, which have allowed capital to play individual national labour movements off against each other. There has been increasing resistance to neoliberal globalisation, but trade unions are often neglected in assessments of this (e.g. Eschle & Maiguashca, 2005). They are considered to be yesterday's movements, with the new social movements and NGOS having supposedly taken over as the main representatives of civil society contesting neoliberal restructuring. This book is, therefore, of high importance, since it outlines the problems faced by trade unions in resisting restructuring, and also in asserting their vital role in any kind of anti-neoliberal movement. It makes a very important contribution to reflections on future trade union strategies and alternative developments. As Craig Phelan writes in his introduction, 'the book provides readers with representative coverage of labour movements around the globe, national and regional movements from every continent, and the latest scholarly word on many of the most prominent issues of concern to all who are interested in organised labour's face' (p. 13). The book's range is wide, from conceptual chapters by Dunn and Munck and an analysis of the role of gender in trade union politics by Ledwith, to assessments of possible instances of international solidarity in a chapter by Anner on the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions' (ICFTU) campaign for global labour standards, and Waterman's reflections on the 'global justice and solidarity movement'. Individual country chapters include an analysis of Australia by Lambert and another of the us labour movement by Clawson, an examination of the situation in China by Chan, and that of Brazil by Galvao. Comparative chapters by Jefferys on the British and French labour movements, by Ost on trade unions in eastern Europe, and by Konings on trade unions in Ghana and Cameroon complete the volume.
As these studies make clear, trade unions face enormous obstacles in their attempts to resist neoliberal restructuring at the national level, but also in the formation of international...