Popular conceptions hold that capitalism is driven almost entirely by the pursuit of profit and self-interest. Though this may largely be true, it conflicts with our actual experience of the realities of capitalism - and is belied by the many associations that take an interest not just in their industry but also the people who maintain it. In "Solidarity in Strategy", Lyn Spillman works from extensive documentary archives and a comprehensive data set of more than four thousand trade associations from obscure corners of commercial life. In studying these diverse groups, from the Cotton Textile Institute to the Cracker and Biscuit Association, Spillman reveals an unexpected truth about capitalist society: protecting and promoting the profits of its member businesses are only two of the many functions these associations serve. More collegial than cutthroat, these associations band businesses together to develop strategies to promote their common welfare, and in doing so, they develop group identities and a sense of solidarity.
Timely and far-reaching, "Solidarity in Strategy" leads us to question some of our most basic assumptions about economic life and forces us to consider how these communities of workers orient themselves in the intertwined worlds of business and society.
Lyn Spillman is associate professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. A 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she is also the author of Nation and Commemoration: Creating National Identities in the United States and Australia and the editor of Cultural Sociology.