Industrial Relations and Globalization: A Marxist Perspective

  • V. Janardhan


Globalization refers to the generation and diffusion of capital across or almost all over the globe. Globalization as it is known and experienced today was clearly perceived by Marx (and Engels). But the notable point is that the original ‘Marxists’ considered this phenomenon to be a progressive tendency despite the social cost. They considered capitalism as a moment historically necessary for the transition to a truly social, human existence and flowering—possible only at the global level. This meant that capitalism had to first become global. The transcendence to socialism would/could happen thereafter. Global capitalism was the prerequisite for global socialism. The transcendence to socialism would/could happen due to the material, moral and political conditions created by capitalism itself. Mainly, the forces of production would come into increasing contradiction with the existing relations of production. The resulting rupture would result in a new mode of production; a socialization of production and new institutional structures in which the capitalist class and the private nature and character of production would be absent. This could also make for socialist industrial relations (IR) at the workplace, with the workers/employees in self-management mode. The focus comes to bear, as usual, on labour, on working-class organizations and movements such as trade unions particularly socialist trade unions and their strategies and action. What actually happened was that capital–labour relations, a structural reality, institutionally got translated as ‘industrial relations’. It acquired the trappings and character of a system by itself. It got incorporated into larger structures of power getting legitimacy in the process. In terms of a theoretical understanding, it makes for a sociological functionalist perspective, including a conflict functionalism. Industrial relations swing between conflict and cooperation between capital and labour. In an IR frame and manner, many possibilities arise including international collective bargaining and solidarity action. The Marxian case and possibilities for transcendence to socialism doubtless exist. For this to happen, Marxist IR theory and practice has to engage in a radical rethink. The present essay is a contribution to this process and prospect.


Globalization Capital Labour Industrial relations Marxist perspective Industry 4.0 Working-class politics 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Janardhan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of HyderabadHyderabadIndia

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