Rapidly changing occupational structure, sectoral composition, and capital flows have fundamentally altered the political, social, and economic landscapes within which labour movements operate around the world. Historical research enables a comparative understanding of the present. Importantly, historical reflection allows us to go beyond the resurrection of elements from the past, towards an understanding of transition, adaptation, and transformation. History offers guidance on how powerful labour regimes emerged and which organising strategies were effective against diverse constellations of power. Thus, through “looping processes of discovery,” history opens an analytical path towards identifying and interpreting power dynamics in contemporary labour markets.
We invite papers which draw on historical work to illuminate the contemporary challenges faced by labour movements globally, and examine possible paths forward, with an emphasis on examination of critical junctures in labour movement development and expansion. The session’s aim ise to map how labour movements have historically adapted to different structural challenges – through organisational structure, coalition formation, political action, and integration with alternative forms of resistance. Presentations will be followed by a moderated discussion which considers the implications of these historical findings for the present.