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Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
Friday, 12 January 2018 08:52

CONCEPTUALIZATION OF THE WORKING CLASS TIED TO INDUSTRIAL AND MANUFACTURING WORK AND DEFENDS IT THROUGH AN EXCLUSIVE FOCUS ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH - Thomas Sebastian

ALTHOUGH he substantiates his claim and justifies his approach both analytically and empirically, he omits to link this with proletarianization processes under way in the service sectors in the global north and to a smaller extent in the global south and thus weakens the generalizability of his argument concerning ‘the coming of the global working class’. Even when he discusses developments in the global north, he restricts his references to proletarianization processes to the past and present of migrant work. The absence of even a rudimentary discussion of major processes occurring in the global north, such as the rising social inequality and the shrinking of the so-called middle-class or labour aristocracy, is in my view a significant omission that although carrying the danger of diluting the argument could have enriched the scope and projected implications of the book’s analysis.

The second weakness concerns the balance between and within the three case studies and between the descriptive and explanatory function of the analysis used. Ness undertakes a very ambitious task: to account for recent developments in three big sectors and three countries, two of them really having the size of continents. While this empirical strategy allows Ness to make the necessary projections and identify global theoretical and political implications, the huge volume of data necessary for the understanding of the historical, economic, political and social context in each case study leaves insufficient room for discussion of the issues. Although the richness of the empirical data used is valuable, at certain points the analysis becomes thin as the weight falls on contextual description, chronicling of events and narrating facts.

Overall, Ness’ book is a valuable one as it analyses very recent developments covering hitherto unchartered ground and expands the scope of existing knowledge. It offers a comparative discussion across sectors and countries and empirically refutes a series of Western-centric ‘post-Marxist’ discourses about the declining significance of industrial work and of the working class as an analytic category and a social force. It provides detailed accounts of new forms of struggle by informal workers, outside traditional trade unions which can expand and enhance our understanding of mobilization processes and social movements.

Ness argues forcefully that the demise of traditional trade unionism is structural and that it cannot in its current form have organizational success, challenge neoliberal capitalism or express workers’ interests and that more attention and energy must be spend in new and innovative forms of really existing worker mobilization as they appear primarily in the informal labour markets in the global south.

London: Pluto Press, 2016; ISBN 9780745336640, £16.99 

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