Rules of Collective Bargaining 1860-1930

  • Shinsaku Onishi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis aims to examine an intellectual background of formation and development of collective bargaining between 1860 and 1930. In the voluntary framework of collective bargaining trade unions were able to negotiate trade and welfare issues with their employers on equal terms. Its institutional formation was secured by the trade union laws of the 1870s. To look into reasons behind its legal composition suggests an anomalous discourse of political economy in the mid-Victorian period, which embodied reciprocal and self-less public virtues of liberalism in contrast to its individualistic and optimistic proposition of free trade developed after the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The cooperation between official and popular economic culture ensured the rule of law in free trade economy, when the voluntary operation of collective bargaining was successful in identifying the public interest by seeking market equilibrium between the interest of producers and that of consumers. However, Britain’s voluntary market culture of free trade faced a severe challenge from the growth of corporate capitalism. Exigencies of the latter turned the free operation of collective bargaining into a stalemate and extracted grave concerns from liberal intellectuals, who lamented ongoing separation between moral and economic law in the principle of political economy. In light of the public interest, both New Liberal and Conservative intellectuals developed their own visions of collectivist society. Focusing on their usages of the liberal concept of public opinion, this thesis argues that political economy of historical economists, by introducing economic organisation of labour as the means to identify the interest of consumers with producers, suggested pluralist solutions to make a reconciliation with the advancement of market economy. The end of liberalism was heralded, when revival of the progressive movement in the 1920s was oriented to achieving industrial cooperation based upon economic rationalisation in production.
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJames Thompson (Supervisor) & Richard D Sheldon (Supervisor)

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