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Mobilizing Restraint

Democracy and Industrial Conflict in Post-Reform South Asia

Emmanuel Teitelbaum

Publication Year: 2011

In Mobilizing Restraint, Emmanuel Teitelbaum argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, democracies are better at managing industrial conflict than authoritarian regimes. This is because democracies have two unique tools at their disposal for managing worker protest: mutually beneficial union-party ties and worker rights. By contrast, authoritarian governments have tended to repress unions and to sever mutually beneficial ties to organized labor. Many of the countries that fall between these two extremes-from those that have only the trappings of democracy to those that have imperfectly implemented democratic reforms-exert control over labor in the absence of overt repression but without the robust organizational and institutional capacity enjoyed by full-fledged democracies. Based on the recent history of industrial conflict and industrial peace in South Asia, Teitelbaum argues that the political exclusion and repression of organized labor commonly witnessed in authoritarian and hybrid regimes has extremely deleterious effects on labor relations and ultimately economic growth.

To test his arguments, Teitelbaum draws on an array of data, including his original qualitative interviews and survey evidence from Sri Lanka and three Indian states-Kerala, Maharashtra, and West Bengal. He also analyzes panel data from fifteen Indian states to evaluate the relationship between political competition and worker protest and to study the effects of protective labor legislation on economic performance. In Teitelbaum's view, countries must undergo further political liberalization before they are able to replicate the success of the sophisticated types of growth-enhancing management of industrial protest seen throughout many parts of South Asia.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

List of Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

This book is about the politics of industrial conflict and industrial peace in South Asia. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it argues that democracies are better at managing industrial conflict than authoritarian regimes. This is because democracies have two unique tools at their...

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pp. xv-xviii

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Ron Herring for his support, guidance and energetic criticism. Ron’s frequent and engaging critiques of my writing pushed me to think more broadly, helping me to link my narrow empirical interests to a much larger set of theoretical issues. Without...


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pp. xix-xxi

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1. Introduction: The Political Management of Industrial Conflict

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pp. 1-24

How should developing countries manage the social and economic tensions inherent in periods of rapid economic change? Are democratic states handicapped in their efforts to promote rapid economic growth by the fact that they afford workers greater freedom to form unions and...

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Part I. A Puzzle and an Argument

In recent years, workers in South Asia have been more heavily exposed to market forces than in the past. For many workers in the formal industrial sector, this exposure was associated with economic reforms that undercut their bargaining power. This section of the book looks in...

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2. Industrial Relations in the Context of Economic Change

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pp. 27-48

In January 1982, Datta Samant, president of the Maharashtra Girni Kamgar Union (MGKU), led a quarter of a million textile workers on a sectorwide strike in Mumbai. Samant’s demands included a wage increase of between 25 and 50 percent (depending on the factory), a...

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3. A Political Theory of Industrial Protest

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pp. 49-81

In chapter 2, we saw how economic liberalization, globalization, and the shift of production to small-scale units and rural areas decreased the bargaining power of unions. Instead of meeting union demands in a rush to resume production, employers increasingly responded to routine...

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Part II. The Evidence

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pp. 83-108

Part I of the book explored differences in how workers in the organized industrial sector respond to increased exposure to market forces. It argued that democracy helps to explain why some workers continue to engage in routine protest and institutionalized grievance resolution...

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4. Democracy, Union-Party Ties, and Industrial Conflict

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pp. 85-112

The analysis in the last chapter generated a set of specific predictions regarding how democracy and the organizational structure of the union movement relate to the protest behavior of workers. We saw that political competition encourages the development of union-party ties as...

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5. Labor Institutions, FACB Rights, and Economic Performance in India

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pp. 113-137

In addition to the political impetus for restraining worker protest, chapter 3 discussed the benefits of associational rights for managing industrial unrest. Specifically, we saw that democracies typically enact more regulation to protect freedom of association and collective bargaining...

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6. The Deleterious Effects of Labor Repression in Sri Lanka

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pp. 138-159

The last two chapters have demonstrated how democracies can draw on synergistic ties and labor institutions to manage worker protest in the context of rapid economic change. However, not all governments choose to respond to labor in this way. As we saw in chapter 5, even India’s Industrial...

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7. Conclusion: Theoretical and Policy Implications

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pp. 160-174

Like most developing democracies, national and regional governments throughout South Asia have struggled to manage the social tension and conflicts inherent in periods of rapid economic transition. There has been great variation in the nature and effectiveness of these attempts. Some,...

Appendix A. Survey Methods and Response Rates

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pp. 175-182

Appendix B. Labor Law Coding

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pp. 183-194


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pp. 195-204

Works Cited

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pp. 205-215


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pp. 217-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463358
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449949

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Industrial relations -- South Asia.
  • Employee rights -- South Asia.
  • Labor unions -- South Asia.
  • Conflict management -- South Asia.
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