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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.

The restructuring of work in Britain

3 Producing hyperflexibility: the restructuring of work in Britain Change is opening up new horizons; but there is fear of what may lie within them. Technology and global financial markets are transforming our economies, our workplaces, our industrial structure. Economic change is uprooting communities and families from established patterns of life. The way we live, as well as the way we work, our culture, our shared morality, everything, is under pressure from the intensity and pace of change … It can be exhilarating. But it is certainly unsettling

in Globalisation contested
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Unheard voices and invisible agency

section that follows, the treatment of production and work within IPE is discussed. Where workers are made visible in analysis, which workers feature and which remain excluded? Finally, a social practice approach to work is outlined and insights are drawn for the repoliticisation of work in IPE. It is argued that in order to restore and capture the social conflicts, tensions and compromises of the restructuring of work, it is necessary to address the concrete experiences of workers who are differentially positioned in the IPE of work. Given the explosion of working

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

. Representing globalisation in a deterministic and apolitical way, I have argued, decisively enables the restructuring of work to be ordered, disciplined, prescribed and depoliticised. It becomes possible for a range of international economic institutions, governments and corporate strategists to confine debate to an instrumental discussion of reforms, as seen in the World Bank’s (1995; 2001) and the OECD’s (1996; 1997) policy interventions. In many ways the sphere of flexibility in working practices does not serve simply as a ‘case-study’ of flexibilisation, but is pivotal

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

in Globalisation contested

individualised arrangements, conflict becomes a thing of the past. A wholly benign image of global restructuring is created, within which the conflicts and struggles that characterise and condition processes of social change are invisible. The restructuring of work and the flexibility discourse Within the mode of knowledge that frames globalisation as an essential and inexorable process, there has been a central proposed solution to the conundrum of what to do. The answer that has come back from public and private managers is to ‘flexibilise’, to introduce flexibility into

in Globalisation contested
Open Access (free)

change in the workplace are beginning to be considered more closely by scholars from across disciplinary divides (see Panitch, 2001; Leisink, 1999; Beck, 2000b). It is my view that the restructuring of work is a critical terrain on which the current and future shape of globalisation will be contested. While IPE has appeared comfortable with the theoretical and empirical study of the firm, it has been much less comfortable with the study of labour and work. Meanwhile, MNCs increasingly have become fractured entities, ‘outsourcing’ their production so that work takes

in Globalisation contested

as this, seeking to reveal the contests and struggles that surround and suffuse the restructuring of work, the Gramsci-derived insights open up the possibility of a conception of contestation in social change. In our terms of reference the social forces that intersect workplace, state-society and world order become key sources of contingency in social transformation (Cox, 1987; Harrod, 1987). Production and work are conceived in a broad sense, with production representing ‘life, for the dispensation of energy (work) which results in life (product)’ (Harrod, 1997a

in Globalisation contested
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

’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 19:1, 71–86. Howell, C. (2015), ‘The changing relationship between labor and the state in contemporary capitalism’, Law, Culture and the Humanities, 11:1, 6–16. Howell, C. (2016), ‘Regulating class in the neoliberal era: the role of the state in the ­restructuring of work and employment relations’, Work, Employment and Society, 30:4, 573–89. 354 Making work more equal Hyman, R. (2015), ‘Three scenarios for industrial relations in Europe’, International Labour Review 154:1, 5–14. ILO (International Labour Organization) (2015a

in Making work more equal