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The Vernacularization of Labour PoliticsThe decline of trade unionism and the absence of labor unions in the public sphere in India as well as at the global level has generated much discussion. In the era of neoliberalism, trade unions are perceived as marginalized and ineffective, replaced by other institutions and alternative forms of labor organization. The chief questions addressed in this volume are: In labor politics today, is there a perceptible shift away from the classical paradigm of labor politics, which was derived from the European historical experience, to a vernacular discourse in surrogate voluntary organizations, including social and cultural associations, non-government organizations, activities nucleating around primordial identities including ethnicity, and a great many organizations which are not explicitly trade unions of workers In a shift from the language of class to the language of community, is the agency taken away from trade unions by a plurality of organizations which are purportedly not for employees' negotiation with the employer, but for serving a whole range of objectives ranging from environmental concerns and women's liberation from social oppression to celebration of festivals or welfare of residents of workers' settlements Is this vernacular mode totally new or were there anticipations of it in the past This volume brings together papers from the Tenth International Conference on Labour History, organized by the Association of Indian Labour Historians and the V.V.Giri National Labour Institute. These scholars have added significantly to the literature on labor politics, moving away from the primacy of categories derived from the discourse of the European and international labor movement of the late nineteenth century and, emphasizing the recent assertion of vernacularity.
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Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, formerly professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, is the founding president of the Association of Indian Labour Historians. His recent publications include The Colonial State: Theory and Practice (2016), The Defining Moments in Bengal, 1920-1947 (2014), and Talking Back: The Idea of Civilization in the Indian Nationalist Discourse (2011). Rana P. Behal is former associate professor of history at the University of Delhi.