Andre Gorz and his Disappearing Proletariat

Richard Hyman

Abstract


Farewell to the Working Class: an apposite text to review in election week 1983? The erosion of traditional Labour loyalties-first through the relative or even absolute decline in the staple industries and occupations in which Labourism was rooted, second through a switch from political support and identity as an inbuilt reflex to more calculative and volatile electoral behaviour-has been a topic of analysis and debate for a quarter of a century. Three successive defeats for Labour in the 1950s provoked influential assertions that the party's working-class identification had become a fatal handicap, as well as pleas for a dilution of the state socialist objectives enshrined in the 1918 party constitution. Though apparent electoral recovery under Wilson largely stilled such controversies, mass unemployment and the rise of Thatcherism have brought renewed attention to the political implications of the changing composition and structure of the working class.

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