Organising principle

June 18, 2009

In response to Alan Campbell's disappointment at my blighting of scholarly tradition (Letters, 4 June): I did not take issue with Gary Daniels and John McIlroy's analysis of political or economic circumstances in my review of Trade Unions in a Neoliberal World. My critique was based on the dominance of their contributions to an edited volume, which lent it an unrelenting structural superdeterminism at the expense of the agency of workers, who do not necessarily see themselves as unwitting purveyors of neoliberal ideologies, but whose behaviour might be contradictory.

Daniels and McIlroy have every right to be critical of union strategies; my point was that they offered no alternative. The future of unions and the wider labour movement is not just an academic argument (particularly for those of us in universities facing substantial job cuts and attacks upon our practice) - there is a crucial and continuing debate to be had about theory and practice. This requires alternative visions and strategies. Campbell is correct that age is not the determining factor here - but the ability to keep whistling might well be.

Sian Moore, Reader, Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University.

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