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Nothing to Lose But Our Chains

Nothing to Lose But Our Chains

Work and Resistance in Twenty-First-Century Britain

by Jane Hardy

Since capitalism began, British workers have always fought for their rights. Today it's no different.

Capitalism is a dynamic system, continually adapting itself to exploit workers in new ways. In Britain today, the gig economy is its newest form, expressed through precarious contracts and the supposed atomisation of workers. In this book, Jane Hardy argues that despite capitalism’s best efforts to stop us, we can always find ways to fight it.

Through a range of case studies, from cleaners to university lecturers, Hardy looks at how workers are challenging employers’ assaults in the neoliberal workplace, comparing these new actions to a long history of British working class struggle. She explores the historic role of migrants in the British workforce, from the Windrush generation to more recent arrivals from the European Union, as well as placing womens’ collective action centre stage. Analysing the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence, she refutes claims that we are entering a post-capitalist society.

Nothing to Lose but our Chains is an optimistic exploration into the power of the working class, showing that no matter what tools capitalism uses, it can always be resisted.

Jane Hardy was Professor of Political Economy at the University of Hertfordshire. She is now an independent writer and researcher. Hardy has published widely on the restructuring of the Polish economy, including her book Poland's New Capitalism (Pluto, 2009). She is a member of the Editorial Board of International Socialism.

'An incisive analysis of the impact of twenty-first-century capitalism on work that charts the creative ways in which workers are fighting back against modern day exploitation'

- John McDonnell, Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington

'Shows the stark reality that, while we have developed more creative ways of winning and seem to be winning more, the impact of capitalism and exploitation of workers hasn't changed very much at all'

- Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union

'A much-needed look at one of the biggest issues for employment relations research and trade unions today: precarious workers. Any study of contemporary union organising that embraces rank and file militancy as a way of building networks of solidarity is a welcome contribution to the debate'

- Dave Smith, co-author of the book 'Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists' (New Internationalist, 2016)

'Deserves to become a guidebook for labour movement activists that can help to further energise collective resilience and resistance'

- Ralph Darlington, Emeritus Professor of Employment Relations, University of Salford

'We have a decision to make: we can sit back and hope the trade unionists of tomorrow will emerge, or we can fight together for the future the next generation deserves. ‘Nothing To Lose But Our Chains’ inspires us with contemporary and ongoing tales of fighting and winning'

- Rohan Kon, Organiser for Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise

'A welcome reassertion of the crucial inter-relationship of gender and class in the struggle between labour and capital, placing recent industrial action by women workers centre stage'

- Sian Moore, Professor in Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, University of Greenwich

List of Figures
List of Tables
Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations
1. Changing Terrains of Work and Struggle
2. Neoliberal Britain
3. Narratives and Numbers of British Capitalism
4. New Icons of Work? The ‘Gig’ Economy and Precarious Labour
5. Explosive Struggles and Bitter Defeats
6. Opening the ‘Black Box’ of Trade Unions
7. Striking Women: Still Hidden from History
8. Migrant Workers: Here to Stay, Here to Fight
9. Taking the Bosses to the Cleaners
10. Working and Organising in New ‘Satanic Mills’
11. Education Workers on the Front Line
12. New Kids on the Block
13. Capitalism’s Gravediggers
Notes
References
Index

Published by Pluto Press in Aug 2021
Paperback ISBN: 9780745341040
Hardcover ISBN: 9780745341033
eBook ISBN: 9781786808110

272 pages

135mm x 215mm

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