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Between Class and Market:
Postwar Unionization in the Capitalist Democracies
Bruce Western

Paperback | 1999 | $52.50 | £44.95 | ISBN: 9780691010335
256 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 14 line illus. 35 tables
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In the United States, less than one worker in five is currently in a labor union, while in Sweden, virtually the entire workforce is unionized. Despite compelling evidence for their positive effects, even the strongest European unions are now in retreat as some policymakers herald the U.S. model of market deregulation. These differences in union power significantly affect workers' living standards and the fortunes of national economies. What explains the enormous variation in unionization and why has the last decade been so hostile to organized labor? Bruce Western tackles these questions in an analysis of labor union organization in eighteen capitalist democracies from 1950 to 1990. Combining insights from sociology and economics in a novel way, Western views unions as the joint product of market forces and political and economic institutions.

The author argues that three institutional conditions are essential for union growth: strong working-class political parties, centralized collective bargaining, and union-run unemployment insurance. These conditions shaped the impact of market currents and explain variations across industries, across countries, and over time for the four decades since 1950. Between Class and Market traces the story of the postwar labor movements supported by a blend of historical investigation and sophisticated statistical analysis in an innovative framework for comparative research. Western tightly integrates institutional explanation and comparative method in a way that balances comparative generality with the unique historical experiences of specific cases.


"The author uses a blend of sociological analysis of institutions and econometric analysis of labor markets to provide a complex yet insightful analysis of the rise and fall of unions in eighteen countries during the post-World War II period. This analysis will appeal to serious students of the labor market from both disciplines."--Choice

"Western gives union growth and decline in the democratic capitalist core as close to a definitive treatment as such a large topic is ever likely to receive. His account is both remarkably rigorous in its use of evidence and lucid in its telling. Sociologists of the economy and comparative political economists (of whatever academic affiliation) will need to study, teach, and draw inspiration from this book."--Alex Hicks, Journal of Politics


"Between Class and Market will be the notable--and for some, definitive--work on its immediate topic: comparative union growth and decline among the continuously democratic post-War affluent capitalist democracies. Bruce Western's analyses of union growth and decline simply are the best in existence. He tells an important and accessible forty-year story of unusual cogency for an analysis of such quantitative-empirical sophistication and rigor."--Alexander M. Hicks, Emory University

"Between Class and Market is a stunning achievement. It is a major piece of social science that weaves into whole cloth accounts from a wide variety of disciplines and methodologies. . . . The result is a sophisticated and compelling analysis that is a must read for students of labor movements and for all scholars committed to developing comparative research methods."--Margaret Levi, University of Washington

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Class Power, Market Power, and the Comparative Method 3
2 Variation in Union Membership 14
3 Labor Market Centralization 29
4 The Ghent System 50
5 Political Parties and Trade Unions 66
6 Cross-Sectional Analysis of Union Density 87
7 The Business Cycle and Union Growth 102
8 The Structure of Labor Markets 122
9 Introducing the Decline of Unions in the 1980s 143
10 Power, Efficiency, and Institutional Change 156
11 Globalization, Institutional Change, and Union Decline in the 1980s 176
12 Conclusion 193
Appendix: Data and Methods 199
Bibliography 205
Index 223

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