Global Determinants of Labor Movement Fracture: Brazil’s Social Movement Unionism in Comparative Perspective

By Jeffrey Blair Sluyter-Beltrao.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article examines the ways in which global-level dynamics of economic, ideological, and organizational change contributed to the fracture and decline of developing-world social movement unionisms, focusing particularly on the case of Brazil’s “New Unionism” movement. Critical global shifts such as the turn to neo- liberal economic policy and the collapse of Soviet communism eroded these movements by fundamentally altering external strategic terrains and by exacerbating internal factional conflicts. The article begins with a conceptualization of social movement unionism as an ideal type. It then critically reviews established externist and internist analytical frameworks, comparing patterns of movement decay in Brazil with those in South Africa and South Korea. Finally, the author lays out an alternative approach that focuses on the interaction between internal movement politics and external environment, with Brazil’s New Unionism as an exploratory case.

Keywords: Globalization, Social Movement Unionism, International Trade Unionism, Latin American Left, Structural Adjustment

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.65-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 626.686KB).

Dr. Jeffrey Blair Sluyter-Beltrao

Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Alfred University, Alfred, New York, USA

I am a Political Scientist whose research has focused primarily on labor movements, organizational democracy, political communication (the so-called “mediatization” of democratic politics) and international political economy. I earned a Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree from Columbia University in 1985 and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003. My broader interests include global environmental politics, global digital media, terrorism and international security, and emerging configurations of world government/governance. I am particularly interested in the evolution of democratic grassroots organizing at the level of “global civil society,” and in better understanding, above all, the obstacles to more effective advocacy network participation in global decision making.


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