An Analysis of Union Models as Illustrated by French Experience

  • Hubert Brochier
Part of the International Economic Association Series book series (IEA)


The incorporation of the extraneous element represented by unionism into wage theory, which has remained characterized by marginal analysis, is bound to give rise to difficulties.2 To what kind of analytical treatment is union behaviour to be submitted? What assumptions should be formulated about it? To what factors is it to be linked? At the present moment, two currents of thought can be discerned in English and American literature. The first, in its attempt to preserve a certain homogeneity of wage theory, tries to use the analytical apparatus created for the firm and puts forward a purely economic explanation of union behaviour, namely one based on the maximization of a certain monetary value. The other trend of thought considers the trade union as an essentially political body and stresses the irrationality of union behaviour, which is said to derive from the mechanism of arriving at decisions within the union organization.


Trade Union Union Member Wage Level Union Leader Union Action 
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  1. 2.
    N. Belfer and C. F. Bloom, ‘Unionism and Marginal Theory’, Insights into Labor Issues (1948), p. 239.Google Scholar
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    A. M. Ross, ‘The Trade Union as a Wage-fixing Institution’, American Economic Review (September 1947), p. 587.Google Scholar
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    Ross, ‘Wage Determination under Collective Bargaining’, American Economic Review (December 1947), p. 822: ‘A sixty-day strike over two cents an hour may be irrational in the economic lexicon, but viewed as political behaviour, it may have all the logic of survival’.Google Scholar
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    A. M. Ross, Trade Union Wage Policy (1948).Google Scholar
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    According to this author union policy could be based on a comparison with wage levels in other sectors. It might also be assumed that the dissatisfaction of union members leading to strike action could be a function of the period elapsed since the last wage increase. K. E. Boulding, A Reconstruction of Economics (New York, 1950).Google Scholar
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    J. Lhomme, La Politique sociale de l’Angleterre contemporaine, Bibliothèque de la Science Économique (1953), pp. 119–122.Google Scholar
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    Cf. J. L. Guglielmi and M. Perrot, Salaires et revendications sociales en France, 1944–1952, C. E. E. Études et Mémoires (1953), p. 63 ff.Google Scholar
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    Cf. A. Sturmthal, ‘National Patterns of Union Behaviour’, Journal of Political Economy (December 1948), pp. 515–527,Google Scholar
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  16. 1.
    We might also mention the lack of realism of certain other hypotheses, such as that about the membership function, of which R. Mosse rightly states ‘that it rests on no empirical datum, and is in flagrant contradiction to labour psychology’. Cf. R. Mosse, Les Salaires bilans de la connaissance économique (1952).Google Scholar
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    Cf. J. Piaget, Introduction à l’épistémologie génétique, vol. iii, ‘La Pensée biologique, la pensée psychologique et la pensée sociologique’ (1950), p. 210.Google Scholar
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    Cf. André Marchai, Méthode scientifique et science économique, le conflit traditionnel des méthodes et son renouvellement (1952).Google Scholar
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    Among the most recent studies on this subject we may cite J. T. Dunlop, ‘The Development of Labor Organization: a Theoretical Framework’, Insights into Labor Issues (1948), pp. 163–193,Google Scholar
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    J. Akerman proposes a somewhat similar method for business cycle analysis in his articles ‘L’Analyse structurelle des variations économiques’, Bulletin de l’Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales de l’Université de Louvain (December 1948), and ‘Cycle et structure’, Revue économique (January 1952).Google Scholar
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    A good example of this approach may be found in the work of J. L. Guglielmi, Naissance et formation des trade unions des mineurs en Grande-Bretagne, 1843–1919 (1952).Google Scholar
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    On the link between the characteristics of French capitalism and those of the trade union movement, see the astute remarks of a philosopher. J.-P. Sartre, ‘Le Communisme et la paix’, Les Temps modernes (April 1954), pp. 1776–1778 et passim.Google Scholar
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    An interpretation based on comparable methodological principles is to be found in Jules Vuillemin, ‘Les Syndicats ouvriers et les salaires’, Économie appliquée (1952), pp. 261–337. It is founded on inequalities in the development of capitalism and the degree of aomogeneity of the proletariat.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Jean Montreuil, Histoire du mouvement ouvrier en France des origines jusqu’os jours (1946), pp. 111–116.Google Scholar
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    Michel Collinet, Esprit du syndicalisme, Les Éditions ouvrières, (1951), chap, i: ‘Du métier à l’industrie’Google Scholar
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    Cf. André Marchai, Le Mouvement syndical en France (1945), pp. 76–78.Google Scholar
  28. 1.
    Union responsibility with respect to the price level is only part of the problems of what has been called ‘integrated and constructive’ trade unionism. Cf. R. Goetz-Girey, La Pensée syndicale française, militants et théoriciens (1948).Google Scholar
  29. 2.
    It can be shown, too, that union behaviour again undergoes profound changes in the course of an inflationary process. In such a case unions would seem to try to avoid having their members fall victims to inflation either by initiating a general movement of wage increases the moment a certain critical gap appears between wages and prices or by demanding a sliding wage scale. On this point see A. Page, ‘La Liaison salaire-coût de la vie’, Revue économique (January 1953), pp. 31–62, and J. Guglielmi and M. Perrot, Salaries et revendications sociales, pp. 102–112.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Economic Association 1957

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hubert Brochier
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GrenobleFrance

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