On the hook : welfare capitalism on the Vancouver waterfront, 1919-1939

Parnaby, Andrew (2001) On the hook : welfare capitalism on the Vancouver waterfront, 1919-1939. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

In 1923, after nearly three decades of class conflict on the Vancouver waterfront, the Shipping Federation of British Columbia, an umbrella organization of shipping, stevedoring, and warehousing interests, undertook a far-reaching agenda of welfare capitalism. Drawing on wider currents of progressive reform which were cresting in the interwar period, and inspired by the example set by its counterpart in Seattle, the Shipping Federation created new joint political structures, adopted a range of paternalist initiatives, and decasualized the waterfront workplace. From its vantage point, this was a "good citizens" policy, and it was designed to: build bridges across the class divide, gain greater control of the work process, stave off the intervention of unions and the state, and, in the end, mould a more efficient and compliant waterfront workforce. The creation and implementation of this reform agenda, the ways in which white and aboriginal waterfront workers negotiated the politics of paternalism and labour market reform, and the long-term ramifications of this dynamic are at the core of this thesis. -- Welfare capitalism shaped patterns of life and labour on the waterfront significant ways: informal ways of regulating the workplace atrophied; labourism was revived; and some waterfront workers acquired a reasonable standard of living. The trade-off at work, here, was this: only those employees who divested themselves of more radical political sensibilities, and adhered to waterfront employers' broader vision of an efficient, decasualized workplace, could hope to secure a living wage and fulfill their obligations as breadwinners, husbands, and citizens. For aboriginal longshoremen, most of whom were from the Squamish First Nation, this bargain was especially difficult to negotiate for it came freighted with the additional challenges associated with being "Indian" in a white society. Unlike their white counterparts who passed muster, they were marginalized from the waterfront during this time as decasualization's new time-work discipline conflicted with their more traditional sensibilities and ongoing need to work at a variety of tasks to ensure material and cultural survival. -- Straddling labour history, aboriginal history, and the burgeoning literature on law and society, this thesis rejects conventional interpretations of welfare capitalism that conceptualize it as either a failed experiment in industrial democracy, or a drag on the emergence of the welfare state. In doing so, it re-positions welfare capitalism in the context of the wider return to normalcy following the Great War, and the powerful reform impulses that took aim at family, citizen, and nation. Rather than forestalling the welfare state, this citizen-worker complex--which manufactured a new sense of entitlement amongst white waterfront workers--was part of a broader cultural shift that would, after the trials of the Great Depression and challenge posed by the Communist Party of Canada, eventually underwrite the state's very expansion. On a broad level, then, this analysis illustrates how the prevailing liberal-capitalist order was successfully rehabilitated after the Great War and 1919, and how, in the long-term, it successfully contained, by consent and coercion, those forces which were antithetical to the prevailing economic and political status quo.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8549
Item ID: 8549
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 428-445.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 2001
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--British Columbia--Vancouver
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Labor movement--British Columbia--Vancouver--History--20th century; Stevedores--Employment--British Columbia--Vancouver--History--20th century; Squawmish Indians--Employment--British Columbia--Vancouver--History--20th century

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