Marxism and the sociology of trade unions by Richard Hyman

By Richard Hyman

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In recent years, people working in large organizations are likely to have found themselves exposed to 'culture change' programmes as part of managerial attempts to make enterprises more efficient, effective and profitable. Thus, even in the most 'material' of domains - that of business and organization - programmes of reform have come to be defined in cultural terms. The first question that comes to mind is how do we explain this upsurge of interest in culture: what are its conditions of emergence and main constitutive characteristics?

For the authors, 'if giving priority to "the passive needs of personal and domestic life" is to be taken as constitutive of alienation, then, one would suggest, serious analysis calls for the development of a new empirical sociology of consumption rather than for the refurbishing of an old philosophical anthropology of production. ,6 According to Goldthorpe et al. (1 969: 1 83-4), the objectivist fantasy of alienation could offer no assistance to sociological analysis. To analyse work identity and the meaning of consumption solely in terms of alienation was, in their view, to engage in a form of social diagnosis 'which in the end cannot be rejected by force of logic or evidence and which, by the same token, others are in no way constrained to accept'.

As it is language that makes possible broad opportunities to participate in communication, then the use of language suggests the creation of 'the most diffuse of all generalized others - the community of speakers of which one is a member: the most inclusive social class of humans is the one defined by the logical universe of discourse (or system of universally significant symbols) determined by the participative communicative interaction of individuals' (Rock, 1979: 145). According to Mead, therefore, the development of identity only takes place under social conditions.

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