Like a bicycle, forever teetering between individualism and collectivism: considering community in relation to labour history

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Abstract

Australian labour historians have used the concept of community to tease out the social intimacies of the working class experience. In emphasising class identities, experiences and affiliations in specific places, their attention has focused on the integrative pressures that enabled certain groups of workers to mobilise politically and industrially in pursuit of collective interests or that produced 'labour-community coalitions'. By contrast, this paper looks beyond ties of class and place and assumptions about shared interests in order to explore how community came to be associated with consensus and group authority rather than social diversity and division. Instead of focusing on integrative pressures that promote conformity to imposed notions of identity and norms of conduct, it emphasises differentiation by recognising that people have numerous sources of identity and interests and that places are spatially fluid and internally-fragmented. Hence, it points to the need for historians to re-examine the question of individual choice in order to enhance our understanding of precisely how the structural and subjective aspects of community and class relate to each other and the way that individual and group identities cohere and fragment across time and space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-32
Number of pages26
JournalLabour History
Issue number78
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2000
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cultural identity
  • Political identity
  • Labor history
  • Community life
  • Communitarianism
  • Gender Identity
  • Community identity
  • Class identity

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