Notes on Robert Hoxie—Unions under the American Capitalist System

Robert Hoxie is among the earliest to have argued that unions evolve differently across social-psychological environmental contexts. He considered American unions less dogmatic and more pragmatic and opportunistic. He identified five functional types of unionism.

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Business unionism:

Business unions are trade-conscious rather than class-conscious; they stress on immediate goals and display an instrumental orientation. Such unions ask for ‘more and more’, focusing on improvement in wages, working hours, and working conditions and pay little attention, if any, to political and social action. They are conservative in that they do not question capitalistic organization and the wage system. They seek to achieve their goals primarily through collective bargaining and industrial action (strikes). Hoxie distinguishes between business unionism and company unionism. The latter is excessively dependent on the company for its (the union’s) survival.


Friendly or uplift unionism:

The goal of such unions is to elevate the moral, intellectual, and social life of the worker. Their means of action include collective bargaining and political action.

Revolutionary unionism:

These unions are class-conscious rather than trade-conscious. They follow Marx’s dictums and reject private ownership of productive resources and condemn the wage system. Industrial and political actions combined with violence are the dominant means whereby such unions achieve their objectives. Hoxie divides revolutionary unions into two subtypes: one focusing on socialist (unionism) ideals and the other perpetrating quasi anarchy (unionism) through strikes, sabotage, and violence.


Predatory unionism:

Such unions are leader based, not member based. While attempting to secure higher wages and other benefits for their members, they do not hesitate to collude with employers to squeeze out competition for mutual benefit.

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