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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.

theses are explored. The analysis focuses on five common aspects that reveal a central dominant representation of social change: the identification of exogenous transformative forces, disciplinary imperatives, historical convergence, social prescription and the death of conflict. I argue that it is these assumptions about social change that underpin and perpetuate the contemporary discourse of imperative labour flexibility. Flexibility itself has an amorphous quality that allows it to be applied ‘flexibly’ to describe the many facets of the contemporary restructuring

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

dynamics of transformation in this way, it becomes possible to make prescribed neo-liberal interventions. When represented as an irrevocable and essential process, that can nonetheless be managed, globalisation becomes a powerful meaning-generating concept that accounts for ‘what is happening’ at the same time as it draws the parameters of ‘what should be done about it’. This book has explored one such representation of globalisation ‘as process’ – the widespread propagation of a discourse of labour flexibility, on which deregulatory interventions are founded

in Globalisation contested
A critical reassessment

macroeconomic environment through restrictive fiscal policy, stable exchange rates and so on.3 On this basis, economists cite the Irish case to support the orthodoxy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the OECD and other international bodies that favour macroeconomic stability over all other social and economic policy variables. The new orthodoxy as the EU enters into a phase of enlargement is to convince the accession countries that they will converge if they maximise the openness of their trade, get the macroeconomics right and encourage labour flexibility. Mainstream

in The end of Irish history?
Open Access (free)

the book Chapter 1 explores the conceptions of globalisation and restructuring on which the discourse of labour flexibility is based. Of course, entire books have been devoted to the subject matter of globalisation alone. However, this chapter explores the particular representation of globalisation as an indomitable process that demands specific restructuring responses. The analysis is focused on five defining aspects of the process-centred view of globalisation: exogenous transformative forces, disciplinary imperatives, historical convergence, social prescription

in Globalisation contested
The restructuring of work in Britain

rests upon, and the contemporary practices that interpret and give meaning to, enable or confound its existence. Producing flexibility in ‘global Britain’ In the preceding chapters I have argued that the construction of a discourse of labour flexibility rests upon the production of a particular mode of knowledge about globalisation and social change. The discourse of restructuring for labour flexibility in British state-society has depended upon a representation of globalisation and restructuring which is now widely understood to transcend individual governments and

in Globalisation contested
Theories and evidence

, 2000) show that the use of subcontracting, network structures with the purpose of increasing production flexibility leads to increased labour flexibility across the entire network and a worsening of employment conditions. The transformation of stable jobs Increased use of outsourcing and continued high reliance on temporary employment contracts have not left intact the conditions faced by workers with permanent contracts of employment. Considering all permanent workers as a homogeneous collective is a mistake since it loses sight of the substantial differences that

in Making work more equal
Open Access (free)
Culture, criticism, theory since 1990

’.35 Revisionist and anti-revisionist camps alike could argue that history was being manipulated to airbrush conflict from the past for the benefit of the heritage and tourist industries, whether by recycling hoary myths and nationalist verities, or by neutralising the North as a site of political conflict and marginalising those who question the merits of economic liberalism and labour flexibility. Despite the strategic silences and evasions in relation to the past since 1990, however, it is hard to reject Carla Power’s assertion that ‘thanks to the boom, Ireland

in Irish literature since 1990
Implications for jobs and inequality

production process (Marglin, 1974). Employers are able to exercise authority over workers to achieve labour flexibility and cooperation in productive activities. In return, workers gain the economic security provided by regular work and wages. A third approach, favoured by Rubery, notes the importance of labour market segmentation theory (Jacoby, 1984; Osterman, 1984; Rubery, 1978) and rejects the simple capital–labour struggle story that underlies the political economy rationale for hierarchical organisation as overly deterministic (see Chapter 1). Rather than a pre

in Making work more equal
The dualist and complex role of the state in Spanish labour and employment relations in an age of ‘flexibility’

which has also presided over extensive labour market fragmentation. Constructing the public sphere in the realm of work and employment In a comparative study of the impact of austerity on Southern European economies since 2008, Koukiadaki and colleagues (2016) have argued that those normally right-wing and/or elite European Commission-based commentators and politicians criticising the lack of labour flexibility in Greece, Portugal and Spain have tended to ignore the fact that these systems emerged from oppressive regimes where you would not have anticipated the

in Making work more equal