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In the Interest of Others: Organizations and Social Activism

by John S Ahlquist and Margaret Levi Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 336 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$74.78
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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In the Interest of Others develops a new theory of organisational leadership and governance to explain why some organisations expand their scope of action in ways that do not benefit their members directly. John Ahlquist and Margaret Levi document eighty years of such activism by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the United States and the Waterside Workers Federation in Australia. They systematically compare the ILWU and WWF to the Teamsters and the International Longshoremen's Association, two American transport industry labor unions that actively discouraged the pursuit of political causes unrelated to their own economic interests. Drawing on a wealth of original data, Ahlquist and Levi show how activist organisations can profoundly transform the views of members about their political efficacy and the collective actions they are willing to contemplate. They find that leaders who ask for support of projects without obvious material benefits must first demonstrate their ability to deliver the goods and services members expect. These leaders must also build governance institutions that coordinate expectations about their objectives and the behavior of members. In the Interest of Others reveals how activist labour unions expand the community of fate and provoke preferences that transcend the private interests of individual members. Ahlquist and Levi then extend this logic to other membership organisations, including religious groups, political parties, and the state itself.

List of Figures ix

List of Tables xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Chapter 1: Beyond Economism 1

Our Argument 5

The Cases 10

Alternative Accounts 15

The Chapters 18

Chapter 2: Building an Encompassing Community of Fate and Winning Consent 22

Leaders, Governance, and Organizational Performance 25

Modeling Organizational Scope and Governance 28

From Leadership Rents to Organizational Governance Institutions 38

Summary and Conclusions 43

Appendix 45

Chapter 3: Pork, Perks, and Predation 53

International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) 55

The ILA 71

Discussion 77

Chapter 4: An Injury to Anyone Is an Injury to All 79

Commonalities Between the ILWU and WWF 80


WWF 103

Tension between Political and Industrial Commitments 113

Continuity Over Time 114

Conclusion 118

Chapter 5: Managing Heterogeneity 120

Managing the Heterogeneity of Locals 121

Managing Individual Heterogeneity 135

Conclusion 152

Chapter 6: Provoking Preferences 155

The Literature 157

Preference Provocation 162

Evidence of Preference Provocation 168

Evidence of Contingent Consent 181

Conclusions 183

Chapter 7: Political Attitudes and Behavior among ILWU Members, with Amanda B. Clayton 185

Employment, Compensation, and Shipping Volumes on the U.S. West Coast 187

International Trade and Public Opinion 189

The ILWU's Organizational Principles and International Trade 192

ILWU Members' and Affiliates' Attitudes Toward Trade 199

ILWU Affiliates' Political Behavior 212

Robustness Considerations 216

Conclusion 219

Appendices 220

Chapter 8: Signaling Solidarity? 230

Bargaining, Strikes, and Politics 233

The ILWU 238

The WWF 251

Conclusion 256

Appendix 259

Chapter 9: Conclusions and Implications 261

Union Behavior 262

Other Membership Organizations 265

Firms 268

The State 269

Other Implications 272

Communities of Fate 276

Bibliography 279

Index 303

'Ahlquist and Levi are able to show how the ILWU was able and remains able to transcend the life trajectory of its founding leader, Harry Bridges, and establish and maintain a commitment to social activism, political mobilization, and an expanded community of fate. Those who wish to move the labor movement toward this vision of social movement unionism would do well to examine this work for its insights.'--Jacob Lesniewski, Social Service Review
John S. Ahlquist is the Lyons Family Faculty Scholar and assistant professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Margaret Levi is the Jere L. Bacharach Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington and Foundational Chair in Politics at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre.