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How can trade unions act strategically?

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It is generally agreed that trade unions require new strategies to respond to external and internal challenges. Economic internationalisation makes it easier for employers to escape national structures of employment regulation, and appears to weaken the ability of governments to defend nationally-based social models; sectoral and occupational shifts in employment erode traditional union strongholds, while social and ideological changes undermine workers' traditional orientation to collectivism. Yet what do we mean by trade union strategy, and how can it be modernised? This article addresses in particular the literatures on organisational learning, social capital and vocabularies of motive to explore how the twin principles of leadership and democracy can be harnessed to meet the challenges of the ‘new’ capitalism.

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