Transfer stimulates dialogue between the European trade union movement and the academic and research community. It contributes research findings on issues of strategic relevance for trade unions, in particular with regard to developments at the European level. Transfer publishes original peer-reviewed research on issues such as new developments in industrial relations, social policy, and labour market developments.

Volume 8 Issue 4, Winter 2002

What has happened to the working class? What has become of the traditional social, cultural, political and trade union identities that accompanied the growth of the industrial societies? What transformations have come about in the traditional cleavages of those societies, which for long saw industrial conflict and its manifestations as one of the central concerns for social regulation in pluralist democracies? These are the questions (especially the first two) that in recent decades have marked analysis of labour issues by the social sciences and the legal and political disciplines, but which now seem largely neglected, so taken for granted have the answers to them become. The third question – which is perhaps the one that has been least explicitly addressed – prompts a further question regarding the fate of the strike in present-day society, be it post-industrial or post-modern. Is it a coincidence that, albeit with a delay of more than four decades, confirmation now seems forthcoming for Ross and Hartman’s (1960) celebrated diagnosis of ‘the withering away of the strike’, and that their endeavour ‘to explain the general decline in strike activity throughout much of the industrialised world’ (p. 42) has finally met with success? It is this third question, and the related one of the decline of the strike, that we shall seek to answer in this article.

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