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Call for Papers: "Politicizing and Depoliticizing Work in the Contemporary Firm and Beyond"

Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association 2019
The Future of Work, September 10-12, 2019

The employment relation that emerged after World War II has undergone significant transformations in the present context of deep socioeconomical changes (transnationalization of capital, economic crisis, digitalization, etc.). Phenomena such as job precariousness, difficult working conditions and the increasing number of working poor become more relevant. In addition to this, the spatio-temporal boundaries between professional and private life are increasingly blurred. These challenges are sometimes tackled via individual arrangements, e.g. about the working time, in such cases a “depoliticizing” of work can be observed. However, counter-processes of “politicization” are also taking place in case of reactions – such as resistances or mobilizations – aimed to negotiated more broadly and collectively the issues linked with the employment relation. Those reactions can involve new actors and their scope depends on the country and/or the economic sector. This workshop questions the extent of such politicizing and depoliticizing processes in order to grasp their size, the issues and the involved actors. The workshop will be structured around three axes.

Axis 1: Are trade-unions and employers’ organizations still the main sources of politicization in the world of work?

For a long time, collective bargaining between trade-unions and employers’ organizations framed the politicizing process of the world of work. Several legitimate actors were involved in this process: trade-unions and employee representative committees, business corporations and employers’ organizations as well as the state in the frame of tripartite bodies. Nonetheless, the devolution of collective bargaining at firm-level and the emergence of new and less unionized economic sectors seem to undermine the traditional employment relation. What dynamics are going on in terms of politicising and depoliticising work and employment relations at firm and sector level? Do the trade-unions and the employers’ organizations still play a major role in those processes? Is the state playing a new part in the employment relation?

Axis 2: What kind of politicization of work take place in a globalized economy?

The employment relation takes place increasingly at the international level in the frame of a new international division of labour. The multinational and transnational companies active in Global Value Chains (GVC) seem to have increased impact on the creation of jobs and the definition of working conditions. This implies a disconnection between such companies and the established actors of the employment relation which are based mainly at local and national level. In which way does the internationalization of the labour process transform the traditional forms of collective bargaining? How can a politicizing of work take place when the production is internationalized?

Axis 3: Which mobilizations can lead to a repolitization of work?

When individual arrangements do not longer allow a balanced employment relation (i.e. possibility to combine individual needs and the requirements of the production), tensions can emerge in the frame of the labour process. These tensions can lead the actors to mobilize themselves collectively or individually for changing the balance of power between actors inside the firms, but also beyond them. Which mobilizations lead to a repolitization of work? Are the firms still the main places of those struggles? Are new actors and spaces emerging?

This call is related to the workshop “Politicizing and Depoliticizing Work in the Contemporary Firm and Beyond” that is organized by Jean-Michel Bonvin, Nicola Cianferoni and Aris Martinelli (University of Geneva). Accepted languages for proposals are English and French. A publication may be considered according to the communications. Applicants must send their abstracts with their name, affiliation, and contact information in the message. The maximum length is 2000 characters (including spaces) and the deadline for submission is April 20, 2019. Please send your proposal to: nicola.cianferoni[at]

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