A question of construction : capital and labour in Wearside shipbuilding since the 1930's
Empirically the central problematics addressed in this study are twofold. Firstly, an account was sought to explain the apparent retention of control over the division of labour by workers in the 1930's, and their apparent loss of this control in the 1980's. Secondly, the view of the British Shipbuilding Industry presented by those working within the labour process tradition is questioned. Such work, claiming general applicability, was often partial in its geographical focus, upon the Clyde and Tyne, and in its presentation of social action at the point of production, focusing on issues of change rather than routinisation, and on the activist account of labour within the workplace. In framing a largely non-activist account of the relationship between Capital and Labour on the wear from the 1930's to the 1980's it was important to develop an adequate theoretical framework. This task is addressed in Chapter One where the issue of the nature of structure and agency are dealt with, and an attempt is made to "unthink dualism" on the basis of a "receding ontology” of material determination. This theory is related to the labour process tradition which is demonstrated to be an unsatisfactory basis for the development of the empirical concerns. Rather, the concept of the employment relationship is shown to be a more satisfactory focus. On this basis the study looks at continuity and change within the industry and community on the Wear. Extraordinary episodes in the history of the industry, such as the employment of women during the Second World War, are detailed, as well as the more routine aspects of work in a shipyard. In relating these aspects to the wider community the debate engages with general accounts of the nature of the working class. The importance of a "cultural” perspective is developed throughout the work and control is seen to depend not only upon strategies of capital and labour, but also upon the development of moral legitimacy within relations of dominance and subordination.