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Workers and Revolutionaries on the Shop Floor: The Breakdown of Industrial Relations in the Automobile Plants of Detroit and Turin (1947-1973)

Pizzolato, Nicola; (2003) Workers and Revolutionaries on the Shop Floor: The Breakdown of Industrial Relations in the Automobile Plants of Detroit and Turin (1947-1973). Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines in a comparative perspective shop floor politics and workers' struggles in the automobile industry of Detroit and Turin. Detroit and Turin offer a lens into the dynamics of what Fredric Jameson has called "high" modernism, a period in which Fordist and Keneysian tenets regulated the relation between wages and productivity. The thesis puts forward the hypothesis that rank-and-file movements in Detroit and Turin can be interpreted as part of a larger workers' uprising that struck advanced industrial societies in the period of maturity of the Fordist-Keynesian system and that heralded its crisis as a regime of accumulation. Turin and Detroit were two poles in a continuous transfer of production technology and managerial strategies that shaped the point of production in a similar fashion. Similarly the way automobile manufacturers' practices of expansion, recruitment and restructuring became the main agent of urban change. In both cases, in fact, the huge influx of Southerners (Meridionali and Southern Blacks) not only recomposed the workforce, but also altered the social and, in Detroit, racial composition of various working class neighbourhoods. Competition for housing and resources caused tensions between newcomers and established residents. The encounter between Northerners and Southerners, reinforced and reconstructed cultural (and in America, racial) stereotypes. In both cases, tensions in the city eventually exploded inside the auto factories where unions had been particularly inept in addressing the problems of the new protagonists of industrial relations. In this situation radical groups, such as Lotta Continua in Turin and DRUM (Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement) in Detroit, seized, for a while, the lead of the struggle, by exploiting migrants' alienation from both the production process and the traditional system of labour relations. This thesis looks at how migrants adopted new tactics and forms of industrial action that involved an immediate, face-to-face confrontation with the company and union hierarchy. It is argued that the migrants' behaviour cannot be easily encapsulated in any political ideology. Often, their struggle represented a moment in their path towards social and individual "recognition".

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Workers and Revolutionaries on the Shop Floor: The Breakdown of Industrial Relations in the Automobile Plants of Detroit and Turin (1947-1973)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Automobile industry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10102204
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