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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2009

4 - Esprit de Corps


Chapter 1 argued that the analogy to the structuring principles of lineage and residence in Lévi-Strauss's theory of social integration was to be found in the French labor movement in the structuring principles associated with craft communities (lineage) and territorial communities (residence). In this chapter, I introduce the “elementary” forms of these structuring principles that will then be discussed in the rest of the book. I also examine some of the historical and structural factors that explain why French workers came to shape their relations with one another in particular ways. These factors include the social organization of craft communities, the control over the reproduction of skills, the organization of production, the character of embeddedness of firms in communities, the geography of markets, and ultimately the effect of all of these factors on labor markets.

Perhaps the overriding factor shaping organizational relationships among French workers was their strong tendency to mobilize at the workplace level, which trumped the labor market or neighborhood as a focus of mobilization. This workplace focus had very important consequences. It created the possibility for cross-craft and cross-skill alliances based on workplace solidarities, and this workplace solidarity often spilled over into community-based political mobilization. This form of community mobilization was often at odds with the neighborhood mobilization championed by political parties.