French Labour Confronts Technological Change: Reform that Never was?

  • Mark Kesselman


Although many accounts have documented the decline and fall of the French labour movement, most analyses focus on trends at the national level. The paucity of local-level studies is surprising, given the strong scholarly consensus that state regulation has declined in importance while firm- and plant-level regulation has become more extensive. The shift is in part a product of strategic changes by state, business and union officials. The labour movement recognized the need for greater emphasis on local initiative before the Socialist government reached power in 1981. In the late 1970s, the two largest labour confederations — Confederation Générale du Travail (CGT) and Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail (CFDT) — acknowledged responsibility for a strategic error earlier in the decade. In order to enhance the prospects of electoral victory for the Union of the Left, the two unions had restrained labour mobilization and accepted limitations on trade union autonomy. When the Left was defeated in 1978, the two unions responded by seeking to shift the focus of union efforts from the national arena to encouraging greater local initiatives.


Technological Change Union Membership Labour Regulation Labour Movement Work Council 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • Mark Kesselman

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