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Demanding a voice? Worker participation in the British interwar management movement

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Charles Harvey



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


It is often assumed that industrial sociology scarcely existed as a topic of study before World War II. Here, we illuminate its antecedents by showing social relations in organisations being vigorously debated by workers and managers in the Rowntree lecture conferences, an integral part of the British interwar management movement (1918-1939). The reported debates and discussions constitute a form of 'citizen sociology'. We explore the movement, previously examined solely from the management's viewpoint, from the workers' perspective, accessing their lived experience through first-hand accounts provided in lectures. Our main contribution is to show how employee demands were progressively neutralised over the period, absorbed into nominally shared concerns for efficiency, as welfare provision was reconceived as labour management. We document this evolution through the lectures, expressed in participants' own words. This was achieved by disregarding worker representatives, but counter-intuitively by engaging with them directly and inviting them into the conferences.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Maclean M, Shaw G, Harvey C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Work Employment and Society

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 30/12/2023

Acceptance date: 26/11/2023

Date deposited: 05/01/2024

ISSN (print): 0950-0170

ISSN (electronic): 1469-8722

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/09500170231220865


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