The social roots of global change : states, firms and the restructuring of work
Within the field of International Political Economy (IPE), and across the social sciences more broadly, analysis of restructuring and guides to its management have tended to use the master concept of globalisation as 'common sense' knowledge about social change. As a result, a discourse surrounding restructuring has emerged which presents a cause-effect and uni-linear model. Thus, restructuring processes within statesocieties and firms are viewed as responses to the imperatives of global change. Building on insights from contemporary IPE approaches, which highlight the historical and institutional contingency of these processes, the central purpose of this thesis is to reconsider global change as contested within and across societies. This is pursued through a consideration of the restructuring of productive and working practices as they are negotiated and contested in the key social terrain of states and firms. The inquiry proceeds through three stages. First, the use of globalisation as a master concept for framing knowledge of social change generally, and of changes in working practices particularly, is outlined. Second, through a focus on the debates surrounding the restructuring of work in Britain and Germany, it is argued that interpretations and experiences of restructuring are socially rooted and, therefore, distinctive. It is demonstrated that state-societies do not simply absorb global imperatives; that firms, as social arenas, do not respond to intensified competition in an unproblematic way; and that social groups actively experience and participate in the restructuring of embedded practices. Finally, it is suggested that perceived technological or economic pressures to restructure working practices take on distinctive meanings for particular societies, raising specific conflicts, and reflecting discrete social understandings. From this perspective, globalisation and social restructuring cannot be meaningfully understood as a single, universal or convergent process. Rather, globalisation and restructuring take on distinctive meanings as they are understood and experienced within specific social contexts.