Klaus Dörre, Nicole Mayer-Ahuja, Dieter Sauer & Volker Wittke (eds.) (2018)
International Labour Studies, Frankfurt: Campus
About the book. Despite its triumph in the confrontation between the East and the West, doubts concerning the future of capitalism are on the rise. While some point to the ecological limits of economic growth, others emphasize the growing inequality in terms of wealth, life chances, and political influence which calls into question the close connection between capitalism and democracy that countries of the so-called « Global North », or the capitalist centers, have become used to after the Second World War. Under these conditions, it is high time to come to terms with the complex and conflictual relationship between capitalism and labor, and to explore new critical perspectives. Moreover, what role could sociology play in this? After all, the most important lines of friction we envisage today are closely linked to structures and processes, which constitute the very field of labor sociology. How is abstract labor transformed into concrete labor, how is the latter coordinated and controlled, and what implications do the changes which can be discerned on the shop-floor today have for the chances of men and women to take their own decisions about how to work, how to live and how to reproduce their labor power, as individuals and as social collectives? What transformations have occurred with regard to the organizational structures in which labor is performed? If companies take to a disintegration of value chains, outsource parts of their business to other firms or even to individuals, and spread their operations across an ever increasing part of the globe, what effects does this have on power relations between capital and labor, between the « Global North » and the « Global South », and for competition and solidarity among an increasingly fragmented working population? Finally, how can we account for the changing character of the socio-economic system we live in today? If we call it capitalism (as we suggest) what does this tell us about the interrelations between economy, politics, and society? Does the term capitalism refer only to (a specific part of) the economic sphere, or to the system as a whole? Is there one capitalism or a variety of different capitalisms? Has capitalism entered a new phase of development, thus turning into financial market capitalism, and does labor still have a role to play? Questions like these have inspired generations of researchers in labor sociology and beyond. Today, however, they acquire a new urgency: Capitalist development seems to have entered a phase in which crisis has turned from a relatively silent companion of capitalist « innovation » to an overt challenge, as the worldwide economic crisis in the years following 2007 indicates. At the same time, labor is faced by multiple transformations which call into question established modes of production (digitization), employment (precarization), and ways of working and living (as exemplified by a continuous intensification of work and the dissolving of its boundaries, in terms of timing, performance, and work organization). Taken together, these transformations seem to deprive ever more working men and women of the chance to plan and live their lives according to their own wishes, and they provoke fundamental questions: Does capitalism have a future at all? What will and what should it look like? What role will labor play in the future development of this system? This book is based on a collected volume that assembled a wide range of expertise (from predominantly German-speaking countries) in 2012. As we write this introduction to the English edition in the fall of 2017, a new rightist, and in parts fascist, party has just entered the National Parliament (Bundestag), calling themselves « Alternative for Germany ». Their impressive electoral success is described by many observers as the revenge of white male workers for decades of neoliberal « reform ».
Sarah Nies & Dieter Sauer: Work – More than employment? Critique of capitalism and the sociology of work, pp. 44-70.
Jörn Lamla: Work and consumption, A new perspctive for economic democracy, pp. 318-334.