new working class

new working class

a stratum within the WORKING CLASS that is seen as distinguished from the ‘traditional’ working class, firstly, by the fact that its members work as technicians in new forms of technologically based industry, and, secondly, by a greater trade union militancy, directed at issues of power and control rather than purely ‘economistic’ issues.

This use of the term was originated by a French writer, Serge Mallet, in 1963, and was adopted, in different ways, by other French authors, notably Alain Touraine and André Gorz (see Mallet, 1975; Gorz, 1967; Touraine, 1971). The argument in some ways recalls that of Blauner (1964). Both saw recent developments in the application of technology to work as having important consequences, but their conclusions are radically different. Blauner saw modern process industry as producing worker satisfaction and harmonious workplace relations. Mallet argued that, compared with the old working class, the work situation of workers in the new automated industries would inevitably produce demands for workers control which, spreading throughout industry, would lead to a revolution in capitalist production relations. The nature of automated work, together with the need to maximize efficiency and productivity would produce a group of workers who were relatively highly trained, autonomous and highly integrated into the enterprise. These factors of community knowledge and power (all encouraged by management in the interests of the enterprise) would facilitate the growth of confidence and demands ‘to acquire control of the enterprise by and for the workers -and thus to a new political awareness …’ (Mallet, 1975, p. 105).

Mallet's original argument has been criticized and undermined by subsequent empirical studies. Studies of British automated companies by Nichols and Armstrong (1976) and Nichols and Beynon (1977), for example, showed that ‘donkey work’ was still common and that the ‘new working class’ remained a minority even in highly automated plants. These studies also suggested that work organization and management strategies were still successful in dividing workers and preventing the development of political organization. Similarly, in the best known ‘test’ of the ‘new working class’ thesis, Gallie (1978) studied three oil refineries, one in Britain and two in France, finding that technology did not have the effect claimed either by Blauner or by Mallet. Instead, distinct national differences between the work-forces existed, indicating that wider cultural factors were more important than technology, and no significant amount of support for workers’ control was found, either in Britain or France. See also AFFLUENT WORKER, ALIENATION, EMBOURGEOISEMENT.

References in periodicals archive ?
The New Working Class: How to Win Hearts, Minds and Votes
"What we have to do is create a new working class that is highly skilled and able to do the kind of jobs that pay enough to give them the freedom to have a good life.
He said together they could build "a new working class, socialist, mass movement that could challenge inequality".
The new working class is overwhelmingly non-unionized and lacks the other workplace protections of a union contract.
While involved in these agitations Gambone began an SFU branch of student Wobblies, arguing that university-educated white collar workers would form the new working class. After leaving SFU, Gambone continued with the non-academic study of classic and contemporary anarchist and socialist texts and histories.
And then also, there are factors like: the decline in social state offerings post the end of the Cold War, the fact that this new working class lives only for the moment (with no hope for the future) and the stress on individualism and the diminishing appeal of family life.
1887 He realises that wealthy Liberal MPs are unlikely do much for working people and comes to the conclusion that a new working class party are needed.
THE 1943 propaganda film Millions Like Us features a young upper middle class woman assigned to a job in an aircraft factory and having to adjust to a new working class world and some rough and ready characters.
I could not see, in other words, the deep connection between the strength of the Fordist working class, from Turin to Detroit; the following dramatic crisis of industrial production that would become commonplace in the American "rustbelt"; and, finally, the introduction of an entirely new working class in all the strongholds of capitalism, made up of both "internal" and "external" migrants.
This was also the case for New Leftist proponents of the 'new working class' school in France and the US.
(8.) Strangleman, Tim, "Class Memory: Autobiography and the Art of Forgetting" in New Working Class Studies, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005), p.148.
Will new working class parties and movements emerge that can combine mass general strikes with challenges for state power?