Assembling cultures

Workplace activism, labour militancy and cultural change in Britain's car factories, 1945-82

By Jack Saunders

Assembling cultures


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3339-7
  • Pages: 312
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: May 2019
  • BIC Category: TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Technical & Manufacturing Industries & Trades, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, HISTORY / Social History, Road Vehicle Manufacturing Industry, Society & social sciences / Political activism, History, Vehicle manufacturing industries, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Trade unions, 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999, Humanities / Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000, Humanities / Social & cultural history


Assembling cultures takes a fine-grained look at workplace activism in car manufacturing between 1945 and 1982, using it as a key case for unpicking narratives around affluence, declinism and class. It traces the development of the militant car worker stereotype, looking at the social relations which lay behind the industry's reputation for conflict. This book reveals a changing, complex world of social practices, cultural norms, shared values and expectations. From the 1950s, car workers developed shop-floor organisations of considerable authority, enabling some new demands of their working lives, but constraining other more radical political aims. This is a story of workers and their place in the power relations of post-war Britain.

This book is invaluable to academics and students studying the history, sociology and politics of modern Britain, particularly those with an interest in power, rationality, class, labour, gender and race.


'Much more could be said about a book which combines richness in detail with a compelling central argument. Saunders' work makes a substantial contribution not just to studies of the labour movement but to contemporary British history more widely, and beyond the discipline on the importance of historicising working-class agency. It is also, ultimately, a hopeful book: it emphasises the possibilities for building new bonds of solidarity, democratic forms of organisation, and power in the workplace. All of which we will be in desperate need of in the coming years.'
Contemporary British History

'Saunders' study makes important interventions in several historiographical. His approach suggests the potential of 'new histories of both labour and political culture, histories that situate subjectivities, behaviours and attitudes within the lived experiences that people shared in the workplace' (11), and it is very much to be hoped that other scholars take up this call. debates.'
Journal of Contemporary History


1. Introduction - Agency and subjectivity in post-war labour militancy
2. Car workers, trade union militancy and public discourse
3. Organising in car factories 1945-60
4. The social practices and cultural norms of "fragmentation", 1960-68
5. Productivity bargaining and re-making workplace trade unionism, 1968-75
6. Towards "Strike Free", 1975-82
7. Conclusion


Jack Saunders is a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick

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