1st Edition

Contested Domains Debates in International Labour Studies

By Robin Cohen Copyright 1991

    Originally published in 1991, this volume discusses the urban working class, international migrants and the so-called lumpenproletariat. The book exhibits the fruitful interaction that has taken place between sociological theory, new views of the changing world economy and the empirical realities of working class experience and struggles. The dual theme of the book is the control which the state and employers seek to impose and maintain over labouring people, and the resistance put up by workers to these often new and unacceptable disciplines. With case studies – both historical and contemporary – drawn from North America, Britain and various parts of Africa, the author develops an interlocking theory of habituation and resistance. Against the background of profound changes in the global economy, Robin Cohen explores ways in which labouring people respond to the structural and managerial constrains on the development of their class consciousness and self-organisation. This will be of interest to urban and industrial sociologists, as well as those concerned with comparative social theory and the relationship between developing world and industrialised societies.

    Introduction. 1. Six Frontiers of a British Identity 2. Expulsions and Deportations: The Practice of Anthropemy 3. Asylum: The Shrinking Circle of Generosity 4. The Detention of Aliens and Asylum-Seekers 5. Sanctuary and the Anti-Deportation Movement 6. Inclusion and Exclusion: Britain in the European Context 7. Theoretical Implications and Conclusion.


    Robin Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at the University of Oxford. For the first decade of his academic career, he worked on comparative labour issues. His books included Labour and Politics in Nigeria (1974) and the co-edited collections The development of an African working class (1975), International Labour and the Third World (1987), African Labor History (1978) and the current title, Peasants and Proletarians. He subsequently wrote on the themes of migration, globalization and diasporas. His best-known work is Global diasporas: An introduction (3rd edition, 2022).

    Review of the original edition of Contested Domains:

    ‘Warwick is today what the LSE was in the thirties: the main English-speaking centre of applied labour movement academic activity…Robin Cohen’s wonderfully stimulating collection of essays is a fine example of the Warwick tradition.’ Dennis Macshane The Tribune, April 1982

    'Thoroughly demanding as is the best of British scholarship...Refreshingly original, it is also soundly grounded in the classics. It merits a close reading form all intrigued by the evolving international division of labour, especially those who hear, as does Cohen, in the often 'hesitant and uncertain' voice of working people an 'intimation of an alternative future.''Arthur B. Shostak, Labour Studies Journal, 20 (4) 1996.

    'South Africa also gives clear proof of Cohen's arguments that the working class in the Third World is capable of going well beyond 'economistic' struggles. Alan Gilbert, Workers' Liberty, 16, 2011.