This paper was submitted to the 1973 Durban Strikes Celebrating 50 Years Conference
This paper reflects on the 40 years (1970s to 2010s) of research on shop floor orders, resistance, and cultural formations of workers in rubber factory in Durban. The paper pieces together research on workplace in everyday life, identity, and resistance using case studies of the 1980s and 2000s. By revisiting theories of workplace resistance, workplace regimes and cultural formations, the paper argues that there are continuities and discontinuities in researching workplace and workers’ lives throughout this 30-year-continuum. Some of the continuities that the paper explores include the persisting migrant labour and migrant identity, shop floor resistance, trade union militancy, masculinities, and trade union accountability. The paper also explores discontinuities in experiences, as well as in theorising the workplace between then and now. The most significant discontinuity was the end of apartheid and its legislative and statutory measures and how these governed both the workplace and society. Webster and Von Hold (2005) refers to it as the triple transition with economic, political, and social dimensions. For instance, the scrapping of the influx control measures, as well as the establishment of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 constitute a significant disjuncture from the past.
The paper also presents an extended approach to cultural formations, which critiques a bounded conception of cultural formations to beyond workplaces in the 1980s’ literatures. The paper argues that an extended and relational approach looks at how shop floor culture is produced and reproduced in everyday life through invoking what is regarded in literature as ‘‘beyond workplace’’ cultural formations. The paper further explores migrant identities and practises: for instance, how ubudoda (masculinities) is invoked by workers when mobilising shop floor resistance. Similarly, ubudoda plays out every day on shop floor in the “manufacturing of consent” (Burawoy, 1979) and shop floor order.