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White-collar unions and attitudes towards income inequality, redistribution, and state-market relations

Arndt, C. (2018) White-collar unions and attitudes towards income inequality, redistribution, and state-market relations. European Sociological Review, 34 (6). pp. 675-693. ISSN 1468-2672

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcy033


The role of trade unions for public policy, public policy outcomes, and political behaviour is a well-studied topic. A serious shortcoming in this literature is that unions are usually treated as unitary actors. This is striking since not least the Scandinavian countries saw the membership growth in independent white-collar unions and their federations at the expense of the traditional blue-collar (and thus textbook-style) union federations. The growth of independent white-collar unions implies that the traditional assumptions about unions as advocates of redistribution and state intervention do not necessarily hold because this type of union represents potential ‘losers’ of redistribution and intervention. Moreover, their members do support less redistribution and more market-based allocation of incomes as well as privatization since the solidarity effect fostered by traditional unionism is weakened if the higher income strata is organized in separate federations. Consequently, this study addresses an important gap in the literature on union membership and political preferences by analysing the attitudes towards redistribution and state-market relations in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden across union federation membership in the last three decades. The findings demonstrate that members of independent academic/professional unions support market allocation of incomes and less state intervention, while the opposite is true for members of traditional blue-collar union federations. The effect of income on attitudes towards state and market is also consistently stronger in the independent white-collar federations in the three countries, which supports the muted solidarity effect in this type of union.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:79185
Publisher:Oxford University Press


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