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Reassessing Syndicalism: The Bourses du Travail the Origins of French Labor Politics (WPS 39, 1992) Steven C. Lewis.

Reassessing Syndicalism: The Bourses du Travail the Origins of French Labor Politics (WPS 39, 1992) Steven C. Lewis.

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For criticism and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper I am grateful to Peter Eisingert Bob Hancke, Vicky Hattam, Stanley Hoffmann, Desmond King, Richard Locket Andrew Martint Carol Mershon, Leigh Paynet Bo Rothstein, Serenella Sferza, Sven Steinmo, and Jonathan Zeitlin, as well as to participants of the Labor and Politics and French Study seminars at the Harvard Center for European Studies.
For criticism and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper I am grateful to Peter Eisingert Bob Hancke, Vicky Hattam, Stanley Hoffmann, Desmond King, Richard Locket Andrew Martint Carol Mershon, Leigh Paynet Bo Rothstein, Serenella Sferza, Sven Steinmo, and Jonathan Zeitlin, as well as to participants of the Labor and Politics and French Study seminars at the Harvard Center for European Studies.

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10/17/2012

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Reassessing Syndicalism:
The
Bourses du Travail
and the
Origins
of
French Labor Politics
by
Steven
C.
Lewis 
Departtnent of Political Science University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Working Paper
Series
#39
For criticism
and
suggestions
on
earlier versions of this
paper
I am grateful to Peter Eisingert
Bob
Hancke, Vicky Hattam, Stanley Hoffmann, Desmond King, Richard Locket Andrew MartintCarolMershon, Leigh Paynet
Bo
Rothstein, Serenella Sferza, Sven Steinmo,
and
Jonathan Zeitlin,
as
well
as
to participants of the Labor
and
Politics and French Study seminars
at
the Harvard Center for EuropeanStudies.
 
Introduction
At
the
turn
of
the
century,
syndicalismappeared
to
many
contemporary
participants
and
observers
as
the
most
promising
and
viable
branch
of_the
international
labor
movement.
Yet,
like
most
historical
"losers,"
syndicalism
has
become
identified
exclusively
with
its
most
glaringly
inviable
elements
--
in
this
case,
support
for
violent
direct
action
and
the
idea of
the
General
Strike.
In
France,
the
country
where
syndicalism
was
strongest,
it
is
usually
seen
as lying
at
the
source
of
a
distinctive
pattern
oflabor
politics,
one
marked
by
chronically
under-institutionalized industrial relations,
weak
and
over
politicized
unions,
cripplinginternal
conflict
-and
poor
articulation
between
party
and
union
"wings."
In
fact,
so deeply
ingrained
is
the
image
of
syndicalism
as
an
uncompromisingly
revolutionary
and
utopian force
with
a
negative
legacy,
that
even
some
of
its
most
well-known
historians
have
taken
this
reductionistcharacterization
for
granted.
1
This
article
presents
a
critical
reassessment
of
French
syndicalism.
It
questions
the
now-conventional
wisdom
according
to
which
syndicalism
was a
hopelessly
utopian
project
that
never
stood
a
chance,
and
it
does
so
by
taking
issue
with
the
following
set
of
assumptions:
(1)
that
syndicalism
was a
monolithic
movement
that
eschewed
the
importance
of
robust
-institutions;
(2)
that
it
was
inherently defective
and
incapable
of
meetjng
the
needs
of
a
modern
labor
movement: (3)
that
its
extraordinary
appeal
in
France
can be accounted
for
by
a
set
of
factors
deriving
from
the
relative
backwardness
of
the
French
political
1

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