Comment on the Working Class Movement

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Writing in 1982, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya commented that ‘Till now in our labour history the Trade Union movement has been the subject of the largest number of published work’. Besides this, the focus was on the worker as an economic being, which did not take into account his/her social and cultural existence. Since the 1980s, however, this situation began to change.

Several studies have appeared which view the working class history from a broader perspective. For one thing, the trade unions are no longer considered as synonymous with the working class. It is true that the trade unions represent a highly organized form of working class activities. Trade unions are only one of the forms in which the workers organize themselves. Working class movement, on the other hand, is a much broader phenomenon and covers various mobilizations of all kinds of workers. Secondly, the recent studies have pointed out that economic motivation is not the sole determinant of working class action. The making of the working class and its movement derives from various sources in which the cultural, the social and the political are as important as the economic. Thirdly, it is indicated that the industrial workers, whom the trade union studies take as their basic staple, form a rather small part the entire working class which includes within its ambit the rural workers, urban workers in informal sectors, and service sector workers.

Moreover, gender questions are also coming to the fore for an understanding of the attitude and behaviour of the workers, the employers, the public activists and government officials.

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