Competing Marxist Theories on the Temporal Aspects of Strike Waves: Silver’s Product Cycle Theory and Mandel’s Long Wave Theory

  • Eddie Cottle Rhodes University


Despite the profound changes in capitalist development since the industrial revolution, strike waves and mass strikes are still a feature of the twenty-first century. This article examines two Marxist theories that seek to explain the temporal aspects of strike waves. In the main, I argue that Silver’s product cycle theory, suffers from an over-determinism, and that turning point strike waves are not mainly determined by lead industries. Mandel’s long wave theory argues that technological innovations tend to cluster and thus workers in different industries feature prominently in strike waves. By re-examining and comparing two competing Marxist theories on the temporality of strike waves and turning points, I will attempt to highlight the similarities but also place emphasis on where the theories differ. I examine the applicability of the theories to the South African case, and reference recent world events in order to ascertain the explanatory power of the competing theories. In the main I argue that Silver’s product cycle lead theory does not fit the South African experience.

KEYWORDS  turning point strike waves; product cycle; long waves; capitalism

Author Biography

Eddie Cottle, Rhodes University
Senior Researcher and PhD candidate, Institute of Social and Economic Research.