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Open Access (free)
An international political economy of work

Bringing fresh insights to the contemporary globalization debate, this text reveals the social and political contests that give ‘global’ its meaning, by examining the contested nature of globalization as it is expressed in the restructuring of work. The book rejects conventional explanations of globalization as a process that automatically leads to transformations in working lives, or as a project that is strategically designed to bring about lean and flexible forms of production, and advances an understanding of the social practices that constitute global change. Through case studies that span from the labour flexibility debates in Britain and Germany to the strategies and tactics of corporations and workers, it examines how globalization is interpreted and experienced in everyday life and argues that contestation has become a central feature of the practices that enable or confound global restructuring.

Open Access (free)
An international political economy of work

global social change have achieved ‘common sense’ status, and how they have been discursively employed to enable particular interventions to be made. This has primarily been an exercise in the politicisation of global restructuring, and the understanding of social change on which it is predicated. A first step in such an exercise involves the opening up of space for the discussion of alternative forms of political representation and, I have argued, this step can be taken via an exploration of the webs of power, tensions and contradictions that grip contemporary

in Globalisation contested
Open Access (free)
Unheard voices and invisible agency

outside the process, receiving the imperatives of global restructuring. For workers this implies that transformations in their everyday lives will follow essentially, necessarily and automatically from new production technologies, the competitive impulses of global markets and the demands of shareholder capitalism. Where agencycentred questions have been raised in the globalisation debate, these have tended to focus upon the decisions and actions of powerful transnational, state or corporate elites. Here the actions, experiences and articulations of workers are simply

in Globalisation contested
Open Access (free)

globalisation is presented as coherently designed and directed by rational collective agents. These agents, whether MNCs, classes or states, are imbued with a unitary identity that is defined by the shared project itself. The tensions, contests and conflicts that surround the form of the project are seriously underestimated. The project perspective can tell us much about the elite actors who contribute to a discourse of global restructuring, but little about the everyday forms of thought and action that characterise the nature of that restructuring. Practice The central

in Globalisation contested

, technology acting from without and, on the other, politics and society simply responding from within. The ‘deterritorialised’ forces of finance (Wriston, 1988; Cerny, 1996; McKenzie and Lee, 1991), production and trade (Porter, 1990; Reich, 1991) and culture (Fukuyama, 1992) are cast in opposition to the presumed territorial realities of state and society. States and societies are consistently positioned as passive receivers of technological transformation. We are left with the impression that global restructuring is nothing more than an effect of the ‘global process’ of

in Globalisation contested
Open Access (free)
The restructuring of work and production in the international political economy

Economist, 4 February 2000: 21), or as the embodiment of globalisation with ‘the whole world in their hands’ (The Sunday Times, 17 May 1998: 11). Meanwhile, for those who oppose or resist globalisation, the logos of the MNCs – the Nike ‘swoosh’, the McDonald’s golden arches, the Shell emblem – have become the archetypal symbols of global capitalism and the epitome of all that is wrong with globalisation. The dominant understanding of firms in the GPE represents the MNC as a unitary, coherent and bounded agent, pursuing global restructuring in a rational and linear fashion

in Globalisation contested

hegemony is built on coercion and consent, life goes on ‘as it should’ (Murphy, 1994: 20). But when the bloc is in crisis and one of its facades begins to crumble there is space for the structures to be ‘rebuilt or reclaimed’ (1994: 29). Murphy’s interpretation of Gramsci serves to problematise representations of social institutions as given or static entities. The ‘project’ of global restructuring thus becomes part of a wider fabric of social power relations that may be cut or hewn in new forms, but not without tension or contest: The active politician is a creator, an

in Globalisation contested
The restructuring of work in Germany

transform past institutions and practices and to render them more compatible with the needs of an increasingly competitive global market. Thus, whether proponent or critic, social democrat or neo-liberal, the historical representations of social order, and their reflection in prevailing institutions, have framed the terms of contemporary debate in Germany. Global restructuring has been debated in terms that are drawn from Ordoliberal conceptions of a social market economy, so that even neo-liberal-style deregulatory strategies have been pursued in a manner that seeks to

in Globalisation contested
Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?

, for example, economic interests divide women, just as their subordinate position vis-à-vis men places them on the same side. Economic interests, especially in the context of global restructuring, have become important markers of difference among women, even as globalization is bringing women closer together across national boundaries through technological and global governance networks (Hoskyns and Rai, 1998; Parpart, Rai and Staudt, 2002). Whose interests, in this context, is not always an easy question to answer. There has also been some debate among feminist

in Mainstreaming gender, democratizing the state?
A critical reassessment

industrial sector had been in rapid decline since Ireland’s accession to the European Economic Community in 1972, already relied heavily on investments by TNCs. One of the features of global restructuring was large-scale disinvestment and relocation of TNC activities. Irish growth rates declined and unemployment rates soared as TNC disinvestments and the failure of new TNCs to invest in adequate numbers complemented indigenous industrial decline. No one knew at the time how a subsequent upturn of foreign investments would affect specific regions like Ireland. Some experts

in The end of Irish history?