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Labour Internationalism in the Global South
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Book description

Labour internationalism is often viewed as impossible or inevitable, depending upon political perspective. O'Brien argues for a more nuanced, diverse understanding of labour internationalism, identifying six different 'faces', shaped by the national or global orientation of particular groups in the fields of production, regulation and ideas. Providing a general view of labour's global activity and a case study of the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR), the book illustrates how the productive and regulatory structures of the global economy are pushing labour internationalism in particular directions. It details how leftist unions in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, the Philippines, South Africa, and South Korea have tried to bridge their differences and launch collective actions. Drawing upon twenty years of participant observation, O'Brien reveals a specific Global South approach based upon anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism and empathetic internationalism.


'O’Brien examines the politics associated with SIGTUR with theoretical confidence and profound empirical research. His ability to trace SIGTUR from its very beginning to the present provides us with an authoritative case study that will enhance our collective understanding of labour internationalism, especially as it relates to the Global South. A necessary volume for anyone who wants to understand global labour politics.'

Dimitris Stevis - Colorado State University

'In this masterful study, Robert O’Brien presents a fascinating analysis of SIGTUR’s attempt at transnational solidarity. Based on conceptual innovation around six different forms of labour internationalism and drawing on years of close empirical observation, this is a path-breaking study that will shape the debate on labour internationalism for years to come.'

Andreas Bieler - University of Nottingham

'Widespread claims have been made on the emergence of a new labour internationalism in response to the growing insecurity created by globalisation. This theoretically informed and scholarly book documents and analyses a little known but imaginative attempt to bring together over a thirty-year period a network of democratic trade unions in the Global South, the Southern Initiative on Globalisation and Trade Union Rights (SIGTUR). It is an inspiring account of women and men who continue to believe in the common fate of humanity and the obligation of the strong to support the weak. This readable book fills a long-standing gap in international political economy.'

Edward Webster - University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

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