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The contributors investigate how the large scale structures of capitalism and the local social relations of workplaces and organizations shape each other. They argue for a new integration of political economy and the sociology of work and organizations.



1. Changing Workplaces, Changing Capitalisms

Recent decades have seen momentous shifts in the organisation of capitalism, including the range of transformations captured under the grand labels of globalisation, financialisation, liberalisation, and post-industrialism. Not surprisingly, the national forms of capitalist political economy are themselves in flux – even though significant differences remain between social democratic, Christian democratic, and liberal economies (among others) the internal dynamics of each of these models of capitalism are being transformed in important ways (Thelen 2014). At the same time, the experience of work in these worlds of capitalism has undergone dramatic changes. Workers often have more autonomy, work more closely with colleagues within and outside their employer’s company, and can exercise more flexibility in organising their work. However, the pressures of work are often more intense, employment is insecure, rewards are uncertain and likely to depend on competition with others, and a general sense of precarity is widespread.

Seán Ó Riain, Felix Behling, Rossella Ciccia, Eoin Flaherty

2. A Varieties Approach to the Varieties of Capitalism

The Cold War world of systems competition between socialism and capitalism is long gone. Today we have only varieties of capitalism. It is thus all the more important to develop the study of these varieties. The Varieties of Capitalism (VOC) school is content to demonstrate, by means of handy constrained optimisation models, that there is an alternative to the liberal market economy model (LME). LME and its opposite, the coordinated model (CME), are defined by different complementarities (Hall and Soskice 2001). While it is comforting that there is an alternative to liberal models, it is regrettable that the study of varieties has been reduced to the study of a crude dualism.

Lars Mjøset

3. The Variety of Polanyian Double Movements in Europe’s Capitalisms

At the core of capitalism is the struggle between capital and labour over the rewards of productive activity. This class relationship shapes the distribution of income and wealth in capitalist economies around the world and is itself shaped by multiple historical and institutional forces, taking many different forms in various workplaces at different times. It is shaped by the characteristics of labour, including its level of unionisation, mix of skills and social protection, and the characteristics of capital, including both the structure and strategies of firms and the mix of financial and productive capital.

Eoin Flaherty, Seán Ó Riain

4. Classifying Labour Regimes beyond the Welfare State: A Two Dimensional Approach

The labour market has been a favoured object of social science research. This is unsurprising considering that it represents both the main mechanism to allocate labour power to productive tasks and the primary source of social inequalities and class formation. However, the current transformations of work and the increasing diffusion of conditions that lie between the categories of employment and unemployment confront both advanced economies and mainstream theories of the labour market with new challenges. Moreover, in spite of the large number of scholarly works that have developed around the classification of advanced economies on several institutional domains, few works have analysed the institutional variety of labour markets per se (Bosch, Lehndorff, and Rubery 2009; Gallie 2007a; Mingione 1997a; Rubery and Grimshaw 2003; Schmid and Gazier 2002).

Rossella Ciccia

5. Reforming Welfare States and Changing Capitalism: Reversing Early Retirement Regimes in Europe

Early exit from work has been a major trend since the onset of mass unemployment during the 1970s, whereas the reversal of early retirement has been on the agenda of welfare state reform for about two decades. Most prominently, the European Union (EU) set the Lisbon 2010 target to achieve higher employment rates (above 50 per cent) among older workers (aged 55–64). However, only some EU countries were able to meet this goal since early retirement has become deeply entrenched. The rise and subsequent persistence of early retirement has been seen as a consequence of the expansion of social rights as well as a reaction to economic developments; these are commonly interpreted as ‘pull’ versus ‘push’ factors.

Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Dirk Hofäcker

6. A Precarious Future: An Irish Example of Flex-Insecurity

This introduction locates the chapter in a broad political economy framework. The chapter aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of how meso level social security and labour market policy work to shape the negotiation of capitalism in the contemporary workplace. We examine how institutional reconfiguration of income support, labour law, and activation policy promotes or constrains labour market precarity. This builds on the analysis of Chapter 5, which dealt with the factors promoting or preventing participation in the labour market at the end of the working life in an era of new welfare politics. The focus is on changing production regimes, work organisation, and everyday lives and on how institutional reconfigurations of welfare architecture promote or constrain precarity.

Mary P. Murphy, Camille Loftus

7. Institutionalisation of Trade Union Activity: Four Indexes and Their Ability to Explain Cross-National Differences in Strike Rate

The decreasing importance of manufacturing in many OECD countries, the parallel consolidation of services as the leading generator of employment and wealth, the successive economic crises that these economies have gone through since the 1970s, the competition in increasingly globalised product markets and the rise of atypical employment are some of the reasons why there has been much talk about trade union decline over the last three decades. In more recent times, though, there seems to have been a revival in the interest for collective action and trade unionism (Frege and Kelly 2003 and 2004).

Luis Ortiz, Clara Riba

8. Welfare beyond the State: Employers as Welfare Providers in Germany and the UK

With the creation of modern mass employment, employers and companies have often provided some welfare benefits to their employees, some of which have attained a certain degree of fame. Workers at the Carlsberg brewery are entitled to free beer; employees of IT firms Google and Facebook can choose among different food outlets or gaming consoles; and some companies build whole towns to accommodate workers. Traditionally, welfare has been seen either as the exclusive domain of states and resulted in typologies like Esping-Andersen’s regimes of welfare capitalism; the outcome of specific coordination processes; or the historical moment of industrial capitalism in which employers used industrial welfare to increase their power and control over employees (Brandes 1976; Esping-Andersen 1990; Hall and Soskice 2001; Reid 1985). However, it is puzzling that little research has actually found its way into comparative political economy accounts of welfare despite well-developed literatures on the relationship between employers and employees, country-specific institutional arrangements, and the role of in-work benefits for creativity and innovation. Discussions have remained within narrowly defined areas of investigation without providing a theoretical bridge between the micro accounts of historical in-work observations and macro explanations of institutional developments of political economy and social policy.

Felix Behling

9. Multinationals of Industrial Co-development: Co-creating New Institutions of Economic Development

Over the last decades original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in highly developed countries have been off-shoring production to low-wage countries to achieve cost-advantages to the effect that dominating global value chains (DGVC) have emerged. As this leads to huge layoffs of employees in Western economies, many interest groups have joined forces and engaged in taking new forms of action, generating social and organisational innovations. At first the concentration of headquarters of large multinationals (LMNCs) in the First World seemed to promise that they could evolve towards knowledge societies. This expectation followed from the belief that only large corporations of developed countries were able to finance R&D labs large enough to turn out new products, if supported sufficiently by basic research institutions (Kristensen 2010). However, the increasing attempts to upgrade industry in emerging economies have gradually undermined this vision of future co-development. Many low cost countries imitate the highly developed by investing in R&D and higher education so that they might be allocated advanced tasks and innovative projects within existing DGVCs. This evolution is diffusing fast to BRIC-countries. Furthermore, Western small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that used to supply repetitive components for the large OEMs have become much more innovative. Innovation in some developed countries has shifted from domination by LMNCs to

Peer Hull Kristensen, Maja Lotz

10. Beyond the Flexibility/Security Divide: Skills, Work Organisation, and External Employment in the German Knowledge-Based Economy

Continental European economies share a pattern of employment institutions, characterised by strong employment protections, investments in workforce training, and employment-based inclusion in social security and other welfare protections. In the German economy, as elsewhere, employment protections limiting dismissals constitute a key regulatory mechanism. Dismissal restrictions pose constraints on employment strategies, by blocking the ability of firms to easily adjust employment levels in response to market downturns and uncertainties. In the face of such constraints, firms in protected employment economies like Germany have found alternatives through more flexible use of internal labour markets. Labour market theory has pointed to the benefits of internal employment and the long-term employment relations they imply for reducing transaction costs and moral hazards, especially in skilled work contexts (Marsden 1999). Research on comparative capitalism has viewed employment protections as ‘beneficial constraints’ (Streeck 1997), since firms are forced to abandon strategies of hiring and firing (numerical flexibility) in favour of training and rotating staff to gain (functional) flexibility. Employment protections and the flexible internal labour markets they create contribute strongly to Germany’s successful alignment of strong economic performance with relatively high employment and social security for workers, rendering Germany one of the best cases of the coordinated market variety of capitalism (Hall and Soskice 2001).

Karen A. Shire, Markus Tünte

11. Work-Life Balance, Working Conditions and the Great Recession

While concern with the interface between work and family life is not new, work-life balance has risen to prominence in academic and policy debates in recent years. This has occurred in the context of rising female participation in the labour market, and a concomitant rise in the proportion of people combining work and caring roles (McGinnity and Whelan 2009). Work does not happen in a vacuum: individuals weave work into their lives in myriad ways, and to a greater or lesser extent feel ‘successful’ or ‘balanced’ in how they do this.

Frances McGinnity, Helen Russell

12. Integrating Work and Political Economy

The preceding chapters have taken us on a tour of European countries, moving from national stories to within organisations, from politics of workplace reorganisation to individual and social consequences, and between work and the economy. Can an integrated sense be made of these diverse journeys across the European economy and its workplaces?

Seán Ó Riain, Felix Behling, Rossella Ciccia, Eoin Flaherty


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