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Re-assessing the Wage-Labor Nexus in Europe

If there is one aspect of the current crisis that bears comparison to the 1929 crisis, it is how labor and salaries in Europe have been transformed. European economies have responded to the crisis in different ways, among them salarial rigidity coupled with the massive destruction of jobs in Spain, an accentuation of an already pronounced labor-market split in France, salary reductions and jobs maintenance through widespread internal flexibilization in Germany, and the status quo in the United Kingdom and Italy.

Although specific Member-State legal and economic policies are crucial to an understanding of the diversity of these adaptations, EU economic and legal regulations also play a significant role. In fact, by actively participating how national wage-labor relationships are defined, European legislation influences the nature and evolution of Member-States’ different sociopolitical compromises. Still, while the monetary union has enabled the EU to avoid a devastating currency crisis during the after-shocks of the crisis, its systematic lack of initiative and chronic reactivity have caused long-term under-employment, and numerous economists have deplored the Euro zone’s poor economic governance.

Twenty-five years after the publication of “Labor Flexibility in Europe” (R. Boyer), the present financial crisis provides an opportunity to assess how the wage-labor relationship has changed since the early 2000s. In the context of a regime of accumulation led by finance, the macroeconomic and institutional landscape have been profoundly transformed, whether we consider labor law, public policy, the role of collective bargaining, or the field of labor and industrial relations. These changes invite examination of how political and social factors influence the dynamics of recomposition of national-level wage-labor nexuses. They also open broader questions about how these factors affect the institutional hierarchies and complementarities that determine the degree of coherence between the regulational modalities among the different member economies of the EU. Further, transformations of the wage-labor nexus in Europe invite exploration of the issue of consolidation of the European social model (convergence, divergence, hybridization) both in terms of the strategy of multinational corporations that operate throughout the continent and of activation or flexisecurity policies implemented in response to EU initiatives. Finally, these changes call for re-evaluation of the role of the wage-labor nexus in the process of differentiation of European capitalisms, particularly with regard to the accentuation of the economic and social disparities that were introduced by the EU’s expansion to 27 members.

This call for contributions, for reasons of organizational simplicity, applies in particular to papers that explore the following three themes:

  • Labor law, union strategies, and corporate policies

  • The European social model and the political economy of the Member-States

  • The wage-labor nexus, transformations of labor, institutional change, and the variety of capitalisms

Contributions may be in English or French and should offer an analytical framework that enables better understanding of the role of the EU in transformations of the wage-labor nexus in Europe. They should specify which theme they pursue and include contributors’ electronic addresses. “

Please submit contributions by April 15, 2011 to either