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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.

Open Access (free)

. It is critical of the ‘globalist’ representations of transformation as an imperativedriven and inexorable process. For people in their everyday lives, there is perhaps no sphere of social life so consistently bombarded with globalist accounts as that of production and work. For states, such a reading reinforces the imperative of a policy agenda that creates a competitive and capitalfriendly environment for MNCs. Firms are cast as the primary agents of global change as they restructure towards the ultimately ‘lean’ and ‘flexible’ organisation. The combined

in Globalisation contested
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Unheard voices and invisible agency

and invisible.1 Not only does this invisibility produce a serious deficit in our understandings of the dynamics of global change, but it also causes us to avert our eyes from the very sites where work and political contestation is taking place in the global political economy. As MNCs increasingly outsource their production and services, they become fractured into loosely connected sites, many of them employing unprotected and precarious workers. The programmes of restructuring in the advanced industrialised countries (AICs), whether ‘hyperflexible’ or ‘flexi

in Globalisation contested
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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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

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
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

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

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 dualist and complex role of the state in Spanish labour and employment relations in an age of ‘flexibility’

. (ed.), The New EU Economic Governance and its Impact on the National Collective Bargaining Systems (Madrid: CCOO), pp. 175–204. 308 Making work more equal Rodríguez-Ruiz, Ó. (2015), ‘Unions’ response to corporate restructuring in Telefónica: locked into collective bargaining?’, Employee Relations, 37:1, 83–101. Royle, T. and Ortiz, L. (2009), ‘Dominance effects from local competitors: setting institutional parameters for employment relations in multinational subsidiaries; a case from the Spanish supermarket sector’, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 47

in Making work more equal