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Unheard voices and invisible agency

6 Globalisation at work: unheard voices and invisible agency T he contemporary problematic of globalisation has encouraged a particular mode of knowledge to dominate explanations of social change. Academic and popular discussion of all matters ‘global’ have predominantly asked ‘what is happening’ type questions. It has become almost common sense to seek to explain the nature of the beast itself, making reference to technological and market structures as the driving forces of change. In this formulation the everyday lives of people are positioned passively

in Globalisation contested

1 Globalisation, restructuring and the flexibility discourse Industrialisation characteristically redesigns and reshapes its human raw materials, whatever the source … The development of an industrial workforce necessarily involves the destruction of old ways of life and work and the acceptance of the new imperatives of the industrial work place and work community. (Kerr et al., 1962: 193) Industries and firms almost everywhere are said to be leaving behind the old, tired, boring, inefficient, staid past and entering into the new, highly efficient, diverse

in Globalisation contested
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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.

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6 Introduction T he mood is shifting in the contemporary globalisation debate. Only a few years ago, talk of the contested and politicised nature of globalisation would have met with scepticism from those who emphasise the sheer economic power of globalising forces. The orthodox popular and academic representations of globalisation have for several decades sustained the image of a powerful economic and technological bulldozer that effortlessly shovels up states and societies. The very discourse of the ‘competition state’ (Cerny, 1990) effectively sanitised

in Globalisation contested
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The restructuring of work and production in the international political economy

5 The ‘contested’ firm: the restructuring of work and production in the international political economy no involuntary changes have ever spontaneously restructured or reorganised a mode of production; … changes in productive relationships are experienced in social and cultural life, refracted in men’s ideas and their values, and argued through in their actions, their choices and their beliefs. (Thompson, 1976/1994: 222) T he desire to comprehend, order and manage the dual dynamics of globalisation and restructuring has led to much attention being paid to the

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The restructuring of work in Germany

4 Producing flexi-corporatism: the restructuring of work in Germany We support a market economy, not a market society … Modern social democrats want to transform the safety net of entitlements into a springboard to personal responsibility… Part-time work and low-paid work are better than no work… (Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder, 1999: 1–7) T he positioning of German state-society within the globalisation and restructuring debates is, in itself, highly contested between competing voices and claims. In a neo-liberal reading, evident across international

in Globalisation contested
Open Access (free)
An international political economy of work

6 Conclusion: an international political economy of work I n the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, we are living in an era of social transformation that has been defined by the concept of globalisation, just as it has been shaped by programmes of restructuring carried out in the name of globalisation. Yet, our era is also one in which people’s concrete experiences of transformation are diverse and contradictory. While for some, living in a GPE means holding and managing a portfolio of shares, business travel for a MNC, and increased prosperity

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The restructuring of work in Britain

, Davos) I n his speech to the Davos meeting the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, conjures a particular image of global change. On the one hand, he constitutes the problem of globalisation and restructuring as an imperative that is disciplined by ‘fear’, ‘uprooting’, ‘pressure’, ‘unsettling’ and ‘falling behind’. On the other, he offers a best practice solution to the defined ‘problem’. The message is that if the ‘right’ policy response is made to globalisation – one that is ‘exhilarating’, ‘managed’, ‘open’ and ‘flexible’ – then there is no need to be afraid. The

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reality is defined for different peoples in different eras’ (Cox, 1995: 35). A significant part of this critical bent is held to lie in the interdisciplinarity that is embraced by ‘heterodox’ IPE (Amin et al., 1994). The willingness to consider the insights of a range of scholars; the acceptance of a range of subject matter and issues; and the raising of voices previously unheard in IR, combine to present IPE as an effective vantage point from which to view social change. Indeed, the IPE perspectives on globalisation could be said to bring together the analytical

in Globalisation contested

While for much of the world globalisation is associated with growing interdependence and the spread of ‘zones of peace’, in the Middle East the decade of globalisation was ushered in by war, was marked by intrusive US hegemony, renewed economic dependency on the core and continuing insecurity, and ended with yet another round of war in 2001. In the early 1990s, prospects looked different to some observers: the end of the Cold War, the second Gulf War, and the advance of economic globalisation seemed to provide a unique

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