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Cross-National Comparisons of Social Movement Unionism

Diversities of Labour Movement Revitalization in Japan, Korea and the United States

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Edited By Akira Suzuki

For the past two decades efforts to halt the decline in union numbers and revitalize the labour movement have largely resided in social movement unionism (SMU). In the first English-language book to compare SMU in Japan, Korea and the United States, scholars from the three countries examine its emergence as a response to neoliberal globalization. Cross-National Comparisons of Social Movement Unionism moves beyond previous studies of SMU and union revitalization which have focussed on the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The eleven chapters offer empirical and theoretical analyses of the impact of SMU on existing labour movements, and explain the mediating factors that account for the diversity of SMU across national boundaries, arguing that its forms and activities are mediated by different institutional, political and economic contexts.

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Part Two Social Movement Unionism from a Cross-national Perspective

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Nobuyuki YAMADA 5 The Diversity of Social Movement Unionism: Towards a Cross-National, Comparative Framework Introduction There is no doubt that the revitalization of the labour movement is a recent tendency in various types of societies, and social movement unionism (SMU) is usually juxtaposed with such revitalization. Its conceptual con- tent, however, is not necessarily definite. In fact, diverse aspects of dif ferent national labour movements are included in its revitalization and incorpo- rated within the meaning of SMU. This situation seems to indicate that the concept of SMU and the revitalization of the labour movement should be constructed as an inclusive framework in which those diverse aspects can be compared across nations or dif ferent societies. This chapter defines social movement unionism as an inclusive and operational framework for cross-national comparative analysis and, using this framework, compares SMU in the United States and Japan. First, it notes similar specificities of SMU in the labour movement – for exam- ple, the transformation and replacement of subjects, the enlargement and remoulding of organizations, the renewal of tactics, the shift of industry, the change of directionality and the formation of policies. The similarity of these specificities results from a common social back- ground – globalization, social exclusion, and neoliberalism. Each of these specificities can become a component of a revitalized labour movement and, if so understood, SMU as such can be an operational concept. The type in which and the extent to which they may come out can vary in dif ferent societies, and such...

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