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Closing the market as the only protection ? Trade unions and the labor market in the French performing arts industry from 1919 to 1937 - M. Grégoire

Mathieu Grégoire,
Centre d’études de l’emploi, 29, promenade Michel-Simon,
93166 Noisy-le-Grand cedex, France

Available online 24 July 2010 on ScienceDirect

The case of trade unions in the French performing arts industry between the two World Wars will serve here to test the hypothesis advanced in the Sociology of Professions and Theory of closed Labor Market whereby workers seek to improve their chances by attempting to limit its access. In line with that hypothesis, lyrical and dramatic actors tried to control the market, in particular by making it compulsory to hold a professional license. Contrary to what the theory proclaims, however, musicians’ trade unions sought to control wages and employment by implementing a strategy of maximum receptivity, i.e. by accepting anyone who entered the market. The article shows how those different strategies molded group identities, by tracing the borders of legitimacy and influencing the nature and extent of solidarities that cropped up in the milieu. Beyond the divergent strategies, two contrasting prospects of emancipation emerge from this study : emancipation as professionals for an elitist and exclusive group of actors and opera singers, emancipation as wage-earners for an inclusive, non-elitist group of musicians.

Keywords : Labor market ; Labor union ; Closed shop ; Closed market ; Entertainment ; Show business ; Unemployment ; Profession ; Musician ; Actor ; France

Article Outline

  • 1. Controlling the labor market : two examples of powerful trade unionism
    • 1.1. The intermittencies of a flexible labor market
    • 1.2. Trade union artillery : the Index, prohibition, and the pillory
    • 1.3. Anglo-Saxon roots and the limits of analogy
    • 1.4. A fundamental divide : a second look at “clause No. 1” and the 1919 strike
  • 2. The Union des Artistes and the ideal of professional closure
    • 2.1. The professional license, or amateurism as repellent
    • 2.2. The failure of the license
    • 2.3. Cleansing, unemployment and charity
  • 3. Musicians’ trade unions and the ideal of sovereignty on an open market
    • 3.1. Musicians’ trade union strategy : accessibility and union discipline
    • 3.2. Organizing the market and solidarity : “containing” multiple employment, and labor union unemployment relief
    • 3.3. The limits of an open strategy, and nationalist closure
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 52, Supplement 1, August 2010, Pages e40-e63
Translation : Gabrielle Varro