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MacDonald's PartyLabour Identities and Crisis 1922-1931$
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David Howell

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198203049

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203049.001.0001

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Organization and Culture

Organization and Culture

(p.17) CHAPTER TWO Organization and Culture
MacDonald's Party

David Howell (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The analysis of formal institutions and procedures provides an insufficient basis for an understanding of Labour Party organization. Over time, party institutions developed cultural identities that characterized patterns of behaviour as effective and ineffective, permissible and unacceptable. Such identities could be valuable sources of legitimacy for the party leadership, but they were sufficiently contestable to permit utilization by strategists keen to produce amendments in party practices and policies. The structures and procedures of the newly formed party owed much to the pre-existing practices and cultures of the principal affiliated bodies — the major trade unions and the Independent Labour Party. Control from above was tempered typically by critical initiatives from below, the tension that led the syndicalist turned elite theorist, Robert Michels, to propose an iron law of oligarchy. Yet Michels, dedicated to the ambition of a universalizing social science, neglected the significance of context. As this shifted, so patterns of organizational politics changed. One crucial component that Michels for good historical reasons failed to examine was the impact of office on labour organizations.

Keywords:   Labour Party, cultural identities, Robert Michels, labour organizations, organizational politics, oligarchy, trade unions

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