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Capital-in-Crisis, Trade Unionism and the Question of Revolutionary Agency

Shaun May

The entry of the capital relation into its epoch of structural crisis forms the basis for the development of the author’s conception of revolutionary agency. Drawing on the work and achievements of both Marx and Hungarian socialist thinker István Mészáros, May relates the emergence and deepening of the structural crisis to the decline of trade unionism as the traditional and universal form of organization deployed economistically by workers against capital. In the relationship between the «defensively-structured», universal, trade union form and the growing contradictions of the global capitalist system, May seeks to unearth the possibility of a higher form of agency which is more adequately adapted to address the immediate and long-term objectives facing millions of people today worldwide in the age of capital’s «destructive self-reproduction». Looking back in order to look forward, he also subjects the form of agency within the Russian Revolution to a critique which relates it directly to the conditions prevailing in Russia at the time. In so doing, he questions its supposed validity as a form of revolutionary agency for the struggle to put an end to the global capitalist system today.

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Series index


Trade Unions Past, Present and Future


This series publishes monographs and edited collections on the history, present condition and possible future role of organised labour around the world. Multidisciplinary in approach, geographically and chronologically diverse, this series is dedicated to the study of trade unionism and the undeniably significant role it has played in modern society. Topics include the historical development of organised labour in a variety of national and regional settings; the political, economic and legal contexts in which trade unionism functions; trade union internationalism past and present; comparative and cross-border studies; trade unions’ role in promoting economic equality and social justice; and trade union revitalisation and future prospects. The aims of the series are to promote an appreciation of the diversity of trade union experience worldwide and to provide an international forum for lively debate on all aspects of the subject.

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