Introduction to Robert Linhart: Concrete Analyses in the Spider’s Web of Production

Production line for galvanized or lacquered steel sheets, Usine Arcelor-Mittal, route de Saint-Leu, Montataire. Olivier Pasquiers and Caroline Pottier/Le Bar Floréal. 

The French Trotskyist journal Critique Communiste published a special issue in 1978 to mark the anniversary of the events of May and June 1968. It featured a lengthy interview with Robert Linhart, former leader of the Union de la Jeunesse Communiste (marxiste-léniniste) (UJCML), the organization perhaps most closely associated with the archetype of the Maoist student-intellectual, the soixante-huitard. But, in a striking shift of emphasis, rather than contribute to the litany of quixotic autopsies that characterize the period, Linhart instead pivots the discussion towards what he views as most urgent for Marxist theory, especially the need to engage in concrete inquiry into the labor process. 

Some context is useful to understand what is at stake in this interview, entitled “The Evolution of the Labor Process and Class Struggles.” Robert Linhart entered the École Normale Supérieure at Rue d’Ulm in Paris (ENS), the peak of the French university system, in 1963. He soon became among the most intimate of Louis Althusser’s “student-disciples.”1 As the decade progressed, he would also become a regular attendee of Charles Bettelheim’s seminars at the École pratique des hautes études on political economy and socialist construction in the Third World.2 He sharpened his Marxist analytical chops as one of the primary editorial forces behind the journal Cahiers marxistes-léninistes, which served as a theoretico-political training ground for the group clustered around Althusser. Turning to Maoism during a summer working for the Algerian Ministry of Agriculture in 1964, in the following year, Linhart’s intervention proved decisive in reasserting orthodoxy over the Union des Étudiants Communistes (UEC).3 During the previous three years, this youth movement had become more open to the broader Marxist left under the direction of an “Italian” revisionist tendency within the French Communist Party (PCF). The “Ulmards” pro-Chinese anti-revisionism eventually led to their own expulsion from the UEC in 1966. This group of around one hundred militants, mainly ENS students, came to form the UJCML with Linhart at the helm, later that year. The UJCML first rose to prominence through the Vietnam Base Committees: these coordinated anti-imperialist organizations, formed in November 1966 and rooted in neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces, popularized the struggle of the North Vietnamese forces and National Liberation Front in the South against the United States, held discussions, published leaflets and bulletins, and engaged in solidarity actions.4 A delegation visit to China in August 1967 profoundly shaped the subsequent trajectory of the UJCML and Linhart personally. The development of a theoretical analysis came to be anchored in “établissement,” a term derived from the French translation of a speech from Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign for the integration of intellectuals and the masses.5 Less than a year before the eruption of 1968, the group effectively turned its back on student politics to make “inquiries” by taking up work in the factories.6 Linhart himself would only become établi at the Citroën-Choisy factory in the autumn of that year.7

In May 1968, however, “our Great Helmsman Robert,” as one former comrade sardonically called him, remained at the head of the UJCML and when unrest began in the Latin Quarter, he dismissed it as a “social-democratic plot, orchestrated by Trotskyists to usurp the working class’s legitimate leadership of the struggle for the benefit of the petit bourgeoisie,” going so far as to expel his wife from a meeting for advocating in support of the student uprising.8 As such a position became increasingly untenable, Linhart underwent a severe mental health crisis, which saw him hospitalized for an extended period, just as rioting in student neighborhoods gave way to factory occupations. When, in the fallout from the 1968 revolt, the UJCML is proscribed by the state along with other left organizations, Linhart joins Gauche prolétarienne, acting as the editor of J’Accuse, one of its two journals. The practice of établissement would continue through this period, conceived in part as an inquiry in search of the theoretical principles that would triumph given their identity with workers’ aspirations and practices and not merely derived from doctrine, and to cultivate the more radical elements of the French working class.9

While Linhart judges this span of political work harshly in the interview, J’Accuse was a significant left-wing publication. It advanced a militant yet popular journalism that sought to comb the political relays that had continued after May ’68 between intellectuals and working-class strata. Its opening editorial averred that its content would be “oriented toward reality, in other words expressing what the press is silent about or distorts. It is a matter of telling the truth about the violent battles the people put up against those with power in this world, the truth too about the low-level everyday war waged against…work ‘accidents,’ living conditions, HLM-dormitories, the foyers-rackets[.]” The weekly was to be “popular through its methods,” and correspondents were encouraged to “physically connect with the reality of peasant and working-class revolt, to articulate the currents of contestation that are transforming the different layers of French society.”10 The project of sustaining viable organs of counter-information that could transmit the intelligence of ongoing social struggles remains one of the GP’s most enduring legacies and certainly can be felt in Linhart’s later work. 

In “Evolution of the Labour Process and Class Struggles” Linhart describes the permanent state of crisis of the GP as a “much more dialectical type of organization,” whose own existence and form was perpetually in question; one that sought to break with activity designed mainly to accumulate political capital for the militant, as he puts it, rather than seek out the conditions for revolution. But Linhart is also critical of the militancy of this period for its truncated focus on the spectacular; a blinkered, even “pathological” view of reality prevailed, he argues.11 This is a worldview which, according to Linhart, has its watershed around 1972, when the GP is dissolved and its members, along with the wider milieu, are faced with a return to “ordinary” life. For his part, Linhart would return to the academy, spending most of his career teaching sociology at Université Paris-VIII-Saint-Denis.

It is partly in light of conceptions of revolutionary struggle developed through the Cultural Revolution and against the backdrop of the decomposition of the French left that in 1976 Linhart publishes perhaps his most important text, Lenin, the Peasants, Taylor, offering a nuanced and account of the Bolsheviks’ shifting analyses and policies vis-à-vis the Russian peasantry and developments in industrial production.12 Among its most fecund arguments is one revolving around Lenin’s adoption of Taylorist scientific management as a means of developing Russia’s productive forces. In conceiving the party as the political agent of the working class, the latter’s objectification by a bureaucratized, Taylorized labor process is justified on the grounds that newly won efficiencies in production would free the popular masses to participate in the direction of the state. The Russian turn to Taylorism, Linhart argues, thus lay the conditions for a rupture between an authoritarian labor process and the democratization of political institutions.13

We can discern in such a claim the echoes of earlier concerns over the separation of intellectuals from workers, and of the division of mental and manual labor more generally, as developed within the UJCML and GP. These are made explicit in Linhart’s discussion of the fear of the peasantry among the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia whose romanticized adoration of the countryside quickly turns to disgust following their bad reception there. This is a characteristic move for the petit-bourgeois intellectual, Linhart notes, a sentiment witnessed among those who entered the factories in the 1960s “with the religious fervor of men for whom absolute truth has been revealed, and after a difficult experience or defeat, abandon their établissement by declaring that the workers are bourgeois, rotten, or fascists.”14

What, then, was Linhart’s own response to Mao’s injunction for the intellectual to “dismount to look among the flowers” or “settle down” among the workers, where a revolutionary situation is absent? In this respect, “Evolution of the Labour Process” unpacks at some length the method of “inquiry.” This is to return to the term deployed by the UJCML but, by the late 1970s, while still conceived as an operation “at trench level”, still établi, in a manner of speaking, but effected through a scholarly work that seeks to understand contemporary transformations to the conditions of labor. The strategies, experiences, and setbacks of établissement allowed could lead into more adequate apprehension of workplace organization and sociabilities.15

Linhart offers a two-fold line of reasoning for the urgency of such a method and unpacking this here serves to begin to offer a sense of how it functions. First, capital operates with an increasingly sophisticated capacity to obscure reality, to restrict or manipulate knowledge of production. Second, production and circulation themselves grow in complexity as outsourcing and subcontracting extend these processes ever more widely and the divisions and differentiations of labor become ever more intricate and stratified. What might appear as a given, discrete factory or enterprise to an outside observer, Linhart suggests, might involve a whole array of small subcontractors operating across an assortment of sites with vastly disparate working conditions and very different operations. Failure to grasp this is to retain a viewpoint anchored in what remain in many respects “craft” sections of the working class within certain sectors – steel working, auto production, cement making… This is a form of ideology, as Linhart sees it, insofar as it excludes from its frame of reference the “spider’s web” of fragmented labor, some “core,” others “subaltern,” that make it up. It is on this basis that knowledge collected from workers is essential in order to gain crucial, systematic knowledge of “the whole” of specific processes of production today. Consistent with his rejection of a romanticization of the working class, Linhart insists that workers’ knowledge is fragmented and partial, if also profound.16 The task of the inquiry is, thus, to collect via dialogue and participation, this disjointed state of collective memory and oral testimony in support of a systematic understanding of the whole.

Linhart’s investigative throughlines combine specific insights from the roughly contemporaneous efforts to develop a practice of workers’ inquiry and “co-research” in Italy, namely the attention to workers’ subjectivities and the “fractures” introduced into class composition through circuits of migration and the variegated enforcement of job hierarchies. Recent scholarship has traced the diffusion of Italian workerism in France, particularly via the publication of translated Quaderni Rossi articles in the 1968 Maspero collection, Luttes ouvrières et capitalisme d’aujourd’hui, as well as the influence the inquiry-form – as fact-finding, interviews, collective tracts, or questionnaires – would have on far-left groups embedded in the social upsurges of the period.17 Linhart’s elaboration of his approach to inquiry in the 1978 interview allows us to see its resonances with that of a figure like Romano Alquati, who stressed the need for close relations between an “outsider” with deep-seated links to “insiders” at a particular worksite. When Alquati went into Olivetti in the early 1960s, he had contacts with workplace militants active in the local branch of the Italian Socialist Party to lend their expertise and assistance. Alquati grounded his inchieste in discussions with workers themselves, drawing out hypotheses and leads that interacted with shop struggles and bringing in broader layers of workers across plants and job classifications.18 The cultivation of close ties with informal work groups around specific knots of firm-specific issues and labor processes raised the collective analysis to a political level. Likewise, Linhart’s careful introduction of the “core/periphery” world-systems problematic to the differentiation of workforces across a production complex also gestures toward the research Ferruccio Gambino and others were conducting in the mid-1970s on how the “mobility of labor-power” and the “mobility of capital” constituted “complementary aspects of the fractionation of labor,” hardening forms of segmentation and closing down openings for working-class organization.19 Finally, Linhart’s insistence that the introduction of new technology into work relations is always a matter of rebalancing the nexus of capitalist power, integration, and workers’ insubordination finds reverberations with Raniero Panzieri’s criticism of distortions around Marxist views on technological development, the division of labor, and workers’ control.20

“Evolution of the Labor Process and Class Struggles” provides a series of examples of how the move from fragments to system might function, although it bears remarking that it does not take up the literary form of an episodic first-person narrative that Linhart otherwise adopts in The Assembly Line, his account of his time établi at Citroën, or Sugar and Hunger, his analysis of the sugar-growing region of Pernambuco in Brazil.21 In the latter, for instance, he offers a rich narrative of his travels through the region as a means of examining the ways an industrialized, sugar-based monoculture wipes out small plots, draws local producers into global markets and class relations. His tapestry of dialogues is expansive, extending to children (themselves often waged workers), a union president, local politicians, engineers, plantation owners; it’s a mode of analysis that operates at different levels of abstraction and, in “settling down” in this way, seeks to avert a reification of Marxist concepts by starting instead from lived experience. This is a means of analysis, in other words, which offers the resources to overcome the apparent contradiction between objective knowledge and a class perspective.22

Not long after “Evolution of the Labour Process and Class Struggles” was published, Linhart largely retreated from public view following a suicide attempt, and with the exception of The Assembly Line, little of his oeuvre has been translated to English.23 It is important to note, however, that Linhart did not completely abandon this commitment to militant inquiry in the later phases of his itinerary, but sustained it through other channels. As he perceptively remarked in a conversation with Charles Bettelheim and the journal Communisme in 1977, there exists a “fantastic disproportion between certain theoretical debates over Marxism and the capacity to understand the concrete class struggle today.”24 Linhart has continued to survey this struggle in its different levels: from international transformations in the process of accumulation, the increasing mobility of capitalist firms and the multiplication of subcontracting, the state’s role in social regulation and labor legislation, different strategic approaches and accommodations from the trade unions, to the strategies of exploitation, spatial division, and resistance that make up the everyday antagonism of the working day.25 He contributed to the lively debates in France at the onset of the 1980s and the arrival of the Mitterrand government into power over the future of the trade-union movement, the destruction of shop floor cultures, and the ideological obfuscations around the Auroux Laws and the devising of new lean production-based “employee participation” schemes.26 He co-wrote reports with other researchers and labor activists involved with the major trade union centers – including his sister, Danièle Linhart, a prolific sociologist of the shifting patterns in the subjectivity of work and managerial techniques centered around the rerouting of autonomy. Through networks and think tanks like the Association d’enquête et de recherche sur l’organisation du travail (AEROT) and the Centre pour la recherche économique et ses applications (CEPREMAP), he made connections with other currents of Marxist analysis of the labor process, recasting the themes and approaches of sociologie du travail in contexts of crisis and restructuring.27 Across all of this activity, he has tackled these scientific analyses of the tendencies of capitalist development, the management and control of labor-power, and workplace organization from the “viewpoint of the working class…among the agents of the production process.”28

In the texts assembled in this collection, Linhart upsets familiar periodizations regarding Fordism and post-Fordism, Taylorism and post-Taylorism, globalization, and other broad characterizations about the changing character of work. He hits upon critical features of contemporary political economy and the labor movement: the redistribution and maintenance of forms of exploitation through outsourcing, arcane legal arrangements of flexible employment, and offshoring in many industries; the interplay of autonomy and subordination in work relations; management surveillance, stress, and knowledge capture in partially automated worksites; and the prospects of worker militancy and union organization among fissured or segmented workforces in larger production and logistics concentrations, across smaller, low-wage shops, and on regional or geographic bases.29 Included are investigations carried out at petrochemical complexes around the Étang de Berre;30 a report on the development of capital-intensive industry and the dilemmas of technology transfer in Algeria, from a visit to the country in the mid-1970s, broaching the the logistical and political questions raised by relations of dependency and underdevelopment in the global value chain;31 historical overviews of Taylorism and consideration of the methodology of the enquête; an inquiry conducted among hospital workers during the transition to the 35-hour workweek in France, tracking the contradictory upshot of computerization and standardization on the labor process in the medical field; and analyses of the structural effects immigration, imperialism, and racialization have had on divisions among the proletariat in France. Linhart has continually highlighted the significance of militants immersing themselves in these situations of investigation and struggle. 


This article is part of a dossier entitledRobert Linhart and the Circuitous Paths of Inquiry.”

References

References
1 Louis Althusser, The Future Lasts a Long Time and The Facts, eds. Olivier Corpet and Yann Moulier Boutang, trans. Richard Veasey (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993), 221. See too Julian Bourg, “The Red Guards of Paris: French Student Maoism of the 1960s,” History of European Ideas 31, no. 4 (2005): 472-490. In an interview with Peter Hallward for the Cahiers d’analyse project which resulted in the Concept and Form volumes (London: Verso, 2012), Etienne Balibar details the seriousness and depth with which Linhart approached the history of Marxist theoretical and political practice from very early on: “Linhart was intoxicated with politics and with Leninism. A little younger than us, he had marked his entrance into our group (the Cercle d’Ulm) in a spectacular way, showing that he knew almost the whole of Lenin’s work by heart. Linhart more or less identified with Lenin. He had read the thirty volumes of his complete works, and memorized them.”
2 François Denord and Xavier Zunigo, “‘Révolutionnairement vôtre.’ Économie marxiste, militantisme intellectuel et expertise politique chez Charles Bettelheim,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 158, no. 3 (2005): 8-29.
3 Virginie Linhart, Le Jour Ou Mon Père S’est Tu (Paris: Seuil, 2008). For some of Linhart’s writings during this period (including a summing-up of his visit to Algeria), see Robert Linhart, “On the Current Phase of Class Struggle in Algeria,” trans. Peter Korotaev, Cosmonaut Magazine, November 2021; and a 1966 text which originally appeared in Charles Bettelheim’s journal, Études de planification socialiste, “For a Concrete Theory of Transition: The Political Practice of the Bolsheviks in Power,” trans. David Broder, Rethinking Marxism 33, no. 4 (2021): 476-511.
4 See Ludivine Bantigny, “Hors frontières. Quelques expériences d’internationalisme en France, 1966-1968,” Monde(s) 11, no. 1 (2017): 139-160; Kristin Ross, May ‘68 and Its Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 90-95; Nicolas Pas, “‘Six Heures pour le Vietnam’: Histoire des Comités Vietnam français 1965-1968,” Revue historique 302, no. 1 (January-March 2000): 157-185.
5 See Mao Zedong, ‘Speech at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Conference on Propaganda Work” (1957), Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. 5.
6 UJCML, “On Établissement,” (1968), trans. Jason E. Smith, Viewpoint Magazine 3 (2013).
7 Robert Linhart, The Assembly Line, trans. Margaret Crosland (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1981). For a different salting experience in a car factory, see Fabienne Lauret, L’envers de Flins. Une féministe révolutionnaire à l’atelier (Paris: Syllepse, 2018).
8 Jean-Pierre Le Dantec, Les Dangers du Soleil (Paris: Les presses d’aujourd’hui, 1978), 112; Virginie Linhart, Volontaires pour l’Usine: Vies d’Établis (1967-1977) (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2010), 38-9.
9 For an excellent overview in English see Jason E. Smith, “From Établissement to Lip: On the Turns Taken by French Maoism,” Viewpoint Magazine 3 (2013), and Donald Reid, “Etablissement: Working in the Factory to Make Revolution in France, Radical History Review 88 (Winter 2004): 83-111. For other accounts, see Marnix Dressen, Les établis, la chaîne et le syndicat. Évolution des pratiques, mythes et croyances d’une population d’établis maoïstes 1968-1982 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000); the articles collected in the thematic issue of Les Temps Modernes, “Ouvriers volontaires: les années 68, l’«établissement» en usine,” nos. 684-685 (2015); and Laure Fleury, Julie Pagis, and Karel Yon, “‘Au service de la classe ouvrière’: quand les militants s’établissent en usine,” in Olivier Fillieule, Sophie Béroud, Camille Masclet et Isabelle Sommier, with le collectif Sombrero (eds.), Changer le monde, changer sa vie. Enquête sur les militantes et les militants des années 1968 en France (Paris: Actes Sud, 2018), 453-484, 2018.
10 See F.M. Samuelson, Il etait une fois Libé (Paris: Seuil, 1979), 100-101. See too Michael Witt, “On and Under Communication,” in A Companion to Jean-Luc Godard, ed. T. Conley and T. J. Kline (Hoboken-Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). 318-350, for more on Linhart’s role in J’Accuse and its impact on the filmmaking of Jean Luc-Godard.
11 For an earlier, quite bitter and unforgiving version of this line of criticism contra “gauchisme,” see Linhart’s takedown of Deleuze and Guattari’s 1972 text, Anti-Oedipus: Robert Linhart, “Gauchisme à vendre?,” Libération, December 7, 1974, 12, 9.
12 Robert Linhart, Lénine, les paysans, Taylor (Paris: Seuil, 1976). Rare analyses in English are offered by Dimitris Papafotiou and Panagiotis Sotiris in “Rethinking Transition: Bettelheim and Linhart on the New Economic Policy,” Rethinking Marxism 33, no. 4 (2021): 512-532 and Alberto Toscano, “Seeing Socialism: On the Aesthetics of the Economy, Production and Plan,” in Economy: Art, Production and the Subject in the 21st Century, ed. Angela Dimitrakaki and Kirsten Lloyd (Liverpool: University of Liverpool Press, 2015).
13 Linhart, Lénine, les paysans, Taylor, 91-94.
14 Linhart, Lénine, les paysans, Taylor, 60; it is worth comparing with Linhart’s own work on the Brazilian peasantry in Le Sucre et la Faim. Enquête dans les régions sucrières du Nord-Est brésilien (Paris: Minuit, 1980).
15 In this endeavor Linhart’s work overlaps with that of fellow ex-établi Nicolas Hatzfeld: see his reflection “De l’action à la recherche, l’usine en reconnaissances,” Genèses 77, no. 4 (2009): 152-165; as well as the ethnographic approaches of Michel Pialoux and Stéphane Beaud. See Stéphane Beaud and Michel Pialoux, Retour sur la condition ouvrière. Enquête aux usines Peugeot de Sochaux-Montbéliard (Paris: La Découverte, 2012 [1999]); Michel Pialoux and Christian Corouge, Résister à la chaine. Dialogue entre un ouvrier de Peugeot et un sociologue (Marseille: Agone, 2011); and Michel Pialoux, Le temps d’écouter. Enquêtes sur les métamorphoses de la classe ouvrière, ed. Paul Pasquali (Paris, Raisons d’agir, 2019).
16 See Enes Kezluca, “Theoretical Acupunctures: From Althusser to the Post-Althusserian Marxism of Robert Linhart,” Rethinking Marxism 33, no. 4 (2021): 533-562.
17 See Marcelo Hoffman’s excellent study, Militant Acts: The Role of Investigations in Political Struggles (Albany: SUNY Press, 2016). Hoffman focuses on Dario Lanzardo’s Quaderni rossi article, translated for the Maspero volume as “Marx et l’enquête ouvrière,” in Quaderni Rossi, Luttes ouvrières et capitalisme d’aujourd’hui, trans. Nicole Rouzet (Paris: Maspero, 1968), 109-31.
18 See Romano Alquati, “Organic Composition of Capital and Labor-Power at Olivetti (1961),” trans. Steve Wright, Viewpoint Magazine 3 (2013), and the historical commentary of Steve Wright in Storming Heaving: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism (London: Pluto Press, 2002), 54. Alquati’s methodological notes in Per fare conricerca: Teoria e metodo di una pratica sovversiva (Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2022 [1993]) are also worth revisiting. An excerpt was translated for the indispensable 2019 South Atlantic Quarterly section on militant inquiry, edited by Matteo Polleri. See Romano Alquati, “Co-research and Worker’s Inquiry,” South Atlantic Quarterly 118, no. 2 (April 2019): 470-78.
19 Ferruccio Gambino, “Class Composition and US Direct Investments Abroad,” Zerowork 3 (1974). See too Gambino’s comments on the subject in his interview with Dylan Davis, “The Revolt of Living Labor,” Viewpoint Magazine, November 2019.
20 See Raniero Panzieri, “The Capitalist Use of Machinery: Marx Versus the ‘Objectivists,’ ” trans. Quintin Hoare, in Outlines of a Critique of Technology, ed. Phil Slater (London: Ink Links, 1980), 44-68.
21 Robert Linhart, The Assembly Line and Le Sucre et la Faim. For a helpful commentary on the latter work, see Marcelo Hoffman, “A French Maoist Experience in Brazil. Robert Linhart’s Investigation of Sugarcane Workers in Pernambuco,” Cahiers du GRM 16 (2020). See too Robert Linhart, “Dette, l’ouvrier et le paysan au brésil,” CEPREMAP Working Papers, no. 8903 (1989).
22 On this point see Kezluca, “Theoretical Acupunctures: From Althusser to the Post-Althusserian Marxism of Robert Linhart.” Also see Louis Althusser’s coruscating comments on “concrete analysis” and workers’ inquiry in What is to Be Done?, ed. and trans. G.M. Goshgarian (London: Polity Press, 2020), 1-24.
23 With a few exceptions: see Robert Linhart, “Western ‘Dissidence’ Ideology and the Protection of the Bourgeois Order, trans. Patrick Camiller, Rab-Rab 5 (2019): 273. The text originally appeared in Pouvoir et opposition dans les sociétés postrévolutionnaires, ed. Rossana Rossanda (Paris: Seuil, 1978) and that volume’s English translation in 1979. Other aspects of Linhart’s research program on the figures of labor and modes of production in Eastern Europe can be found in Pascal Bonitzer, François Géré, Robert Linhart, Jean Narboni, and Jacques Rancière, “Table ronde: L’homme de marbre et de celluloïd,” Cahiers du cinéma 298 (March 1979): 16-29.
24 Robert Linhart and Charles Bettelheim, “Sur le marxisme et le léninisme. Débat avec Charles Bettelheim et Robert Linhart,” Communisme 27-28 (March 1977); republished in Revue Période, January 2019. Linhart’s post-Maoist trajectory invites comparison to that of Sylvain Lazarus and the development of a practice of inquiry in the Organisation politique: see Sylvain Lazarus, “Workers’ Anthropology and Factory Inquiry: Inventory and Problematics” (2001), trans. Asad Haider and Patrick King, Viewpoint Magazine, January 2019.
25 See Etienne Balibar, The Philosophy of Marx, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 2007 [1995]), 94-97; and Michel Freyssenet, La division capitaliste du travail (Paris: Savelli, 1977).
26 See Robert Linhart and Danièle Linhart, “Naissance d’un consensus,” CEPREMAP Working Papers, no. 8515 (1985). For an overview of some of these debates, see Jean Lojkine, “The Decomposition and Recomposition of the Working Class, in The French Workers’ Movement: Economic Crisis and Political Change, ed. Mark Kesselman, trans. Edouardo Diaz, Arthur Goldhammer, and Richard Shryock (London: Routledge, 1984), 119-31; the articles gathered in International Journal of Sociology 12, no. 4 (Winter 1982/1983); Alain Lipietz, “Three Crises: The Metamorphoses of Capitalism and the Labour Movement, in Capitalist Development and Crisis Theory: Accumulation, Regulation, and Spatial Restructuring, ed. M. Gottdiener and Nicos Komninos (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989), 59-95; Beaud and Pialoux, Retour sur la condition ouvrière; and Jean-Pierre Durand and Nicolas Hatzfeld, Living Labour: Life on the Line at Peugeot France, trans. Dafydd Roberts (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
27 See Michael Rose, Servants of Post-Industrial Power? Sociologie du Travail in Modern France (London: Macmillan Press, 1979); and the interview with Danièle Linhart in CISG no. 11 (June 2013): 37-54. Linhart’s trenchant criticism of lean manufacturing methods based on quality circles or teamwork concepts dovetails with the indispensable cross-sector and cross-union work done in this area in the US by Labor Notes.
28 See “Taylorism Between the Two Wars” (1983), in this dossier.
29 For further analysis see Danièle Linhart and Robert Linhart, “Les ambiguïtés de la modernisation. Le cas du juste-à-temps,” Réseaux 13, no. 69 (1995): 45-69; Danièle Linhart, Robert Linhart, and Anna Malan, “Syndicats et organisation du travail: un rendez-vous manqué,” Sociologie et sociétés 30, no. 2 (1995): 175–188; Danièle Linhart, Robert Linhart, and Anna Malan, “Syndicats et organisation du travail: un jeu de cache-cache?,” Travail et Emploi no. 80 (September 1999): 109-122. A new text by Robert Linhart was recently published in Crisis and Critique: see Robert Linhart, “Immigration: A Major Issue in Politics Today,” trans. Agon Hamza, Crisis and Critique 9, no. 2 (November 2022): 267-68. It should also be noted that Linhart found this panoramic scope capable of revealing essential tendencies of capital accumulation and labor discipline: “I am always surprised to discover the unity of methods of capitalist management, from the wealthiest centers to the poorest dependent zones. How is the system able to penetrate so far and with such precision?” Linhart, Le Sucre et la Faim, 48.
30 Dominique Pouchin, “L’Éclatement,” Le Monde, March 7, 1980; and compare the contradictions Linhart describes in the petrochemical cluster with those described by the Porto Marghera workers in Italy during a similar time period. It should also be noted that oil and petrochemical refinery workers in France engaged in extended strikes from September to November 2022, causing significant reductions in the country’s overall refining capacity in the context of a broader European energy and cost of living crisis, with the government intervening to break strikes at certain depots.
31 See Linhart’s comments in the introduction to Lénine, les paysans, Taylor, where he observes that a balance sheet of industrialization in the USSR during the 1920s can provide important elements for understanding the relationship between the introduction of new production methods and socialist construction in Third World countries after decolonization and the global economic crisis of the mid-1970s. Linhart, Lénine, les paysans, Taylor, 18.

Authors of the article

teaches Political and Cultural Theory at Richmond American University in London.

currently runs a sound preservation network for the British Library. His doctoral research examined the politics of working class autonomy through a history of industrial struggles at the Ford Motor Company in Britain.

is a member of the editorial collective of Viewpoint. He lives in Seattle.