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Title: The British motor industry, 1945-77 : how workplace cultures shaped labour militancy
Author: Saunders, Jack Stacy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7428 8887
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Car workers’ union activism has long held a strong grip on popular memories of the post­war period. Working in the quintessential industry of modernity, and as the “affluent worker” par excellence, their labour militancy has been linked to narratives of economic decline and of rising working­class living standards. Yet despite their centrality to understanding of this period, historians have often given their workplace activism superficial treatment. Seeing this period as one where class solidarity was eroded by the rise of “privatism”, scholars have been unwilling to see novelty in collectivism. Consequently, car workers’ capacity for collective action has often been taken for granted, with mobilisation attributed to a combination of uncomplicated economic motivations, the last gasps of a declining “traditional class consciousness”, and the effects of the post­war settlement. Existing study has thus suppressed the changing forms of agency and subjectivity expressed by labour militancy, something this thesis rectifies by considering workplace activism in the motor industry as a specific historical creation of post­war Britain, rather than a reflection of “tradition”. Studying the processes by which workers built their union cultures, I look to discern the origins of the shop­floor organisations that were established in the 1950s, and explore the capacity of car workers to generate new solidarities and collective values in this period. Turning to the 1960s and 1970s this thesis examines in detail the social practices and cultural norms that emerged from organisation, aiming to understand how worker activism shaped the agency of car workers in post­war Britain, influencing the forms that strike action took. Finally, using a mixture of oral history interviews, letters, meeting minutes and periodicals, I look at the meanings workers attributed to industrial conflict, asking whether factory activism generated attitudes distinct from the dominant values of wider British society.
Supervisor: Collins, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available