Rationalities in trade union work: a discourse analytic perspective on the strategies of three Danish trade unions for professionals

Publication: Research - peer-reviewArticle in proceedings – Annual report year: 2011

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The ambition of this paper is to analyze the discursive practices of three Danish trade unions for professional and managerial staff (The Danish Society of Engineers, The Association of Lawyers and Economists, and The Danish Association of Masters and PhD’s) as found in their strategy and position papers. Using discourse analytic methods the paper will analyze, discuss and compare the current strategy papers of the three unions in order to investigate how they problematize their roles and objectives. This investigation will clarify the discursive premises of the unions and it will be shown how these premises restrain and afford their agendas. Thus the overall purpose of the paper is to investigate and describe the dominant logics and rationalities that have shaped the documents and to point to their limits and bounds. This archaeological investigation will be the point of departure for a critical examination of the implicit and tacit naturalizations made in the documents that reveal the ideological presuppositions of the discursive practices of the authors. Besides documenting how ‘strategic management’ has become an integral part of Danish trade unions practices, the paper sets out to discuss this trend in relation to the general neo-liberal decentering of the ‘social’ and promotion of ‘community’ as the locus of governance. Through examples from the practices of the Danish trade unions, the paper will substantiate how new technologies of governance and the subjectification of union members as ‘customers’ tend to transform the role of the trade unions from the position of ‘political actors’ to ‘service providers’ in the advanced liberal societies. In closing, the paper will gesture to possible contestations, points of resistance and alternative discourses that are silenced in the strategy documents of the unions. By highlighting these vantage points the paper will thus suggest potential avenues for reorientation of the strategic practices of the unions. The critical potential of the paper will aim to readdress issues and fundamental questions about solidarity, identity, inclusion and exclusion, the territoriality of the unions, political ambitions, etc. By destabilizing the predominant neo-liberal discourses of the trade unions, the paper thus aims to point to alternative discursive resources and practices for strategy development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication7th International Critical Management Studies Conference
Publication date2011
StatePublished - 2011
EventCMS7 2011 - Naples and Capri


ConferenceCMS7 2011
CityNaples and Capri
Period01/01/2011 → …


  • Discourse analysis, Strategy, Trade unions
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