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Title: Trade unions and the media : exercising and revitalising power after the financial crisis of 2008
Author: Geelan, Torsten Karl Rosenvold
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 2316
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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The Great Recession that followed the financial crisis of 2008 had a devastating impact on workers, leading to high levels of unemployment and underemployment, increased job insecurity and stagnant or declining wages. While the legitimation crisis of neoliberalism could be viewed as a turning point for labour internationally, the immediate response by political parties across the spectrum was one of austerity measures and cuts to welfare. As the largest collective representatives of workers, trade unions are at the forefront of mobilisations attempting to challenge this consensus. Simultaneously, they are engaging in new activities to enhance public awareness and understanding of the crucial role that trade unions play in the labour market. Thus, the 21st century crisis is creating both challenges and opportunities. Each trade union movement’s response depends on the different forms of power they possess and choose to deploy, their strategies and allegiances, and the specific socio-economic and political context in which they are situated. Questions concerning what constitutes union power and the ways in which it is being exercised and revitalized therefore represent fascinating lines of enquiry to explore. To do so, however, requires a new perspective on trade union power that recognises the significance of the media which has been overlooked in industrial relations theory. Drawing on insights from industrial relations, the sociology of media and social movement studies, this thesis proposes the concept of communicative power to trace how trade unions produce and circulate discourse through the media (either union-owned or corporate) to a mass audience. Methodologically, it uses the tripartite approach which focuses our attention onto three key communication processes involved in trade union attempts to exercise communicative power: the production of union discourse, the circulation of union discourse, and the reception of union discourse. This is applied to four cases involving seven union organisations in the UK and Denmark over a five-year period 2010-2015. Data was gathered using 40 semi-structured interviews with union officials and activists, content analysis of newspapers, union media outlets and social media, and secondary survey data. In sum, this thesis argues that the media is, and always has been, central to how trade unions exercise and revitalize power in society. And within the context of accelerating digital capitalism, it looks set to becoming an increasingly important determinant of their future trajectory.
Supervisor: Brown, William Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Trade unions ; Media ; Power ; Denmark ; United Kingdom ; Newspapers ; Social Media ; Campaigning ; Politics ; Industrial relations ; Social movement studies ; Theory ; Austerity ; Content analysis ; Financial crisis ; Neoliberalism ; Cross-national research ; Sociology of media ; Employment relations ; Trade union renewal