This paper tries to give an account of the radicalisation of forms of conflict which took place in five countries (Belgium, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and West Germany) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before the consequences of the energy crisis and the economic recession which marked 1974 and 1975. (The economic context has been considerably changed by these recent developments, and as yet it is too early to draw conclusions on changes in the pattern of industrial conflict.) The radicalisation was manifested in a series of interdependent phenomena: waves of strikes, strikes at all levels, a relative increase in the length of conflicts, increasing control exercised by the mass of workers, developments in forms of action, and increasing recourse to direct action. The first part of the paper establishes the facts: the analysis is descriptive, comparative and historical. In the second part some interpretation is attempted. First, the incidence of economic variables, both conjunctural and structural, is considered: in what economic conjunctures do strike waves occur? What are the implications for strikes of technical rationalisation and the emergence of new groups of workers? Second, the question of institutionalisation is tackled. It is suggested that the first strike waves were the direct consequence of insufficient in-stitutionalisation at the lowest level, that of the enterprise. The strikes led in turn to attempts at reinforcing institutionalisation which contained the seeds of their own negation: there was thus a double movement — of institutionalisation and of growing radicalisation.


Industrial Relation Plant Level Collective Agreement Work Council Strike Action 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pierre Dubois

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