chapter  One
17 Pages

So Many Cases but So Little Comparison: Problems of Comparing Mineworkers

ByAndrew Taylor

A common sentiment is that miners are the same all over the world, a sentiment often articulated by miners themselves. It is ironic that a group of workers often identified as at the forefront of working-class organization and politics in so many national contexts have generated so few comparative studies. This chapter explores this paradox. The 'new' labour history of the 1960s and 1970s moved the focus away from the study of organizations towards the examination of the day-to-day 'experiences' of the working class. The 'archetypal proletarian' was perhaps the first comparative framework available to students of mining. Comparison is the political scientist's laboratory and they aspire to use comparison to verify or falsify whether a generalization holds. Universalizing theories clash with the complexity of working-class experience and encourages the explanation of variation from a (presumed) norm. To explain exceptionalism and particularism in a wider context it is needed to engage with similar processes of change and other national experiences.