We are pleased to share with you presentation abstracts of the first confirmed keynote speakers: Prof. Juliusz Gardawski, Prof. Jane Hardy, Prof. Krzysztof Jasiecki, Prof. David Ost, Prof. Paul Stewart and Assoc. Prof. Vera Trappman.
prof. Juliusz Gardawski – Warsaw School of Economics, PL (personal website)
Economic mentality of Poles: from the working class and entrepreneurs to precariat?
This paper will reconstruct the history and the present applications of the “well organized economy index” (Wskaźnik gospodarki dobrze urządzonej) which was initially developed in 1984. Up to 2010 the index was included in over twenty surveys carried out by various research teams at the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH). Although its form and content slightly evolved over time to reflect and follow the changing social and economic realities, nevertheless, there was a core of 12 variables included in each survey. The main intention behind all questions is to extract opinions on the basic mechanisms governing the economy, and thus reconstruct the picture of ‘economic mentality’ of a population in focus, which makes an important input into the discussion on perceived and favoured economic order. Index items pertain to such issues as competition among businesses, tolerance of unemployment, attitude towards foreign direct investment (FDI), extent of fiscalism, etc. In the past, the index was placed in the questionnaires used in nation-wide surveys conducted in Poland for the sake of the following projects carried out in the 1990s and 2000s on the economic mentality of working class and then working Poles and entrepreneurs. The focus was the general population of adult citizens. Employing the index for nearly a quarter of century produced a unique longitudinal data set. In the current research, the index is for the first time employed beyond Poland within the DFG-NCN funded project PREWORK (“Young precarious workers in Poland and Germany: a comparative sociological study on working and living conditions, social consciousness and civic engagement”, UMO-2014/15/G/HS4/04476) within a comparative study on young precarious workers in two Poland and Germany. In the study, it is supplemented by other variables suitable to the context of the research on a specific segment of the labour market, constituted by young precarious workers. In the presentation, the first results of the study as well as its methodological challenges will be discussed.
prof. Jane Hardy – University of Hertfordshire, UK (personal website)
Neoliberalism and work: why we need theory
Documenting the lived experiences of workers is a critical ingredient in the sociology of work, but theory is necessary to go beyond description. Neoliberalism has been used as a catch-all pejorative to capture the degradation of work. It is argued that it needs to be understood as a multi-scalar, multi-institutional concept underpinned by Marx’s theory of value. Marx begins with the micro level and opens Capital by looking at the commodity and takes us through a number of theoretical steps to understand the notion of exploitation and how tension between capital and labour is intrinsic. This approach challenges the distinction between good and bad capitalism, it poses the question as to how this relationship will develop. At a meso level employers use a myriad of contracts to enable the extraction of surplus value and these will be determined historically and differently between and within countries. At a macro level governments have changed the rules of the game in favour of employers, which reinforces the institutional dimension of capitalism. The importance of understanding these three levels is critical to debates about the strategies of labour necessary to arrest to the onslaught on the wages and working conditions of workers.
prof. Krzysztof Jasiecki – Institute of Philosophy and Sociology Polish Academy of Sciences, PL (personal website)
Theoretical and methodological problems of labour relations research in the Varieties of Capitalism approach. The case of Poland
For many years in the study of labour relations the most influential is the Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) approach. In this interpretation, labour relations are characterized mainly in terms of their coordination functions in the economy. They are an integral part of the relationship key political and economic institutions of the country, which form a relatively consistent pattern of complementarity in the financial sector, corporate governance and social policy. The most important ratio of these relationships is the amount of remuneration and the productivity of the work that determines the conditions of companies. The distinctive patterns of complementarity between political and economic institutions are characterized by the typology of capitalism distinguishing the liberal market economy and the coordinated market economy (Hall and Soskice 2001). The aim of the article is to present the advantages and theoretical limitations and methodological perspectives of VoC in the industrial relations in Poland and other post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This approach is the basis for cross-country comparisons in the European Union, including, among others, the Europe Industrial Relations reports, the European Participation Index and academic projects and publications. The paper presents the main dimensions of the debate on the specifics of Poland and most other post-socialist countries in comparison with the Western variants of capitalism and the consequences of this distinction in industrial relations terms (in the form of new conceptualizations of the institutional structure of such relations in the interpretations of Polish and foreign researchers and their empirical characterization). It also includes selected scenarios for the development of employment relations after the Eurozone economic crisis and political changes in Poland since the end of 2015 against the background of EU systemic transformations.
prof. David Ost – Hobart and William Smith Colleges, USA (personal website)
Methods for studying labor in the impending post-neoliberal era
Analyses of labor during the heyday of neoliberalism largely focused on loss and exclusion. Workers’ and unions’ power were disappearing, full-time employment became precarious, and workers were coping, or not. This approach diverged from labor analysis during the social democratic boom era, which focused on union growth, class consciousness, and the transformation of workplace authority structures. Today’s world is marked by the political crisis of neoliberalism, and requires a new type of focus. This is a world in-between, when labor exclusion is often challenged from the right, previously privileged labor groups react in self-destructive ways to their descent into an underclass, and greater technological possibilities for labor supervision also allow new types of labor organization. This presentation explores the dominant characteristics of the impending post-neoliberal age; examines various ways the current trends affect labor on the job, in life, and in politics; and suggests new theoretical and practical approaches for studying and anticipating labor in this new liminal age.
prof. Paul Stewart – University of Strathclyde, UK (personal website)
To what extent is it possible to describe a relationship between periods in the trajectory of capitalism and actually existing socialism since the Second World War and developing agendas in the sociology of work? A number of moments can be discerned including the rise and demise (with a transition) of a post war social democratic compromise across Europe and its supersession by variant forms of neo-liberalism in Eastern Europe. In the case of Eastern Europe, the focus is on the impact of actually existing socialism on the sociology of work and labour. Moreover, it is possible to track approaches to, inter alia, labour in the context of the changing nature of collectivism and individualism. In what can be discerned as the first period, beginning 1945 and ending around the time of the oil crisis 1973-1974, we can see emphasis placed upon labour as a phenomenon defined in both Marxist and Weberian terms as part of the dynamic relationship involving capital.
In the second period from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s, the rise of neo-liberalism and financialisation, including the fall of the Berlin wall and collapse of actually exiting socialism, sees a shift in the agenda both of sociology’s broader concerns and the way in which research is conducted. Now, there is a focus upon capital (typically qua management) with a move away from the concerns of labour were the latter is seen as problematical. This was paralleled by a shift in the sociology of work in some countries, notably the UK, away from sociology departments to business schools. Of concern was an agenda defined by management obsession with new pattern of productivity described as a post social-democratic form of regulation. (This includes the neo-liberal championing of management nostrums, inter alia, Toyotaism, lean production and the so-called High Performance Work Organization). These concerns, to a greater or lesser extent, came to define a key area in the sociology of work but they were by no means the only ones as the presentation of the work of a book written collaboratively with scholars from twelve European countries will make clear.
In the third period beginning in the mid-2000s with the slow and gradual onset of neo-liberal crisis brought about by impact of financialisation, the way in which labour is studied and the focus of the sociology of work begins to change yet again.
Assoc. prof. Vera Trappman – Leeds University Business School, UK (personal website)
Gig workers in Europe
The Keynote will address recent developments in the gig economy. Approximately 1-5 % of the adult population is currently using online platforms to get paid work. The keynote addresses issues and problems for the workers, ranging from legal status, to association rights, employment conditions and social protection. While social protection is difficult already for atypical workers in the analogue world, the introduction of online platforms as intermediaries expands the problems. Most of the workers are considered to be self-employed and therewith lack protection provided to workers or employees. The keynote draws on a report prepared for the European Parliament by the Centre of Employment, Innovation and Change (CERIC) at Leeds University. The report is based on comparative qualitative research in 7 European countries and an online survey among gig workers. The project team comprises 10 members of CERIC and is led by Professor Chris Forde.