Accepted paper:

Understanding the last British civil war? A phenomenological approach


Andrew Dawson (University of Melbourne)

Paper short abstract:

This paper documents the solidaristic practices by which the UK miners’ strike of 1984-85 was maintained, and explains their cultural logics. Drawing on phenomenology, I argue that solidarity was enabled, in part, by perceptions of communality grounded in the bodily experiences of mining work.

Paper long abstract:

The miner's strike of 1984-85 is regarded as a defining moment in British industrial relations in the twentieth century that heralded the advent of a broader neo-liberalization of the United Kingdom and, commonly, the 'defeat of the working-class'. Less, however, is made of the fact that the strike was sustained for, remarkably, almost a full year. And less still is made of the lessons this may hold for contemporary insurrections. Conventional Industrial Relations, that has monopolized understanding of the strike tends to explain the solidarity underpinning both the strike's length and miners' militancy more generally in terms of a series of structural factors related to either geography (e.g. residential concentration), human capital (e.g. limited skills transferability) or working practices (e.g. relative autonomy of workers from management). Based on long-term ethnographic and oral historical research, this paper documents the solidaristic practices - mutual aid networks and the provisioning of alternative welfare services, etc - by which the strike was maintained, and the cultural logics underpinning that solidarity. Importantly, drawing on Merleau-Pontian phenomonenology, I argue that such solidarity was enabled, in significant part, by perceptions of communality grounded in the particular bodily experiences of mining work.

panel P01
Enlightenment's third pillar: solidarity and solidarity economies