Transformations of Contemporary Capitalism:<br />
Actors, Institutions, Processes

Transformations of Contemporary Capitalism:
Actors, Institutions, Processes

SASE 23rd Annual Conference
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
June 23-25, 2011


SASE received a record number of submissions for mini-conference themes this year, and is pleased to announce its mini-conference themes for 2011!

Mini-conferences are based around a selected number of focused themes, and have open submissions for panels and papers, based on an extended abstract (approx. 1000 words). Each mini-conference will consist of 2 to 6 panels. Each panel will have a discussant, meaning that selected participants must submit a completed paper by June 1st. If a paper proposal cannot be accommodated within a mini-conference, organizers will forward it to the program committee, who will pass it on to one of the networks as a regular submission. Click the title of each mini-conference for a full description of the theme.

1. The Capability Approach: A New Perspective on Labor Market and Welfare Policies?

Peter Bartelheimer
Ortrud Lessmann
Wenzel Matiaske

Current transformations of capitalism, affecting different levels of political and economic organization as well as social structure and dynamics, raises the question, "From which perspective is this comprehensive change to be observed and judged?" The choice of the point of reference has a crucial impact on how we think about the current transformation. In the debate about measuring societal progress, the Capability Approach (CA), as brought forward by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, has become prominent as a new evaluative framework. Instead of using an aggregate outlook, it takes the perspective of the individual and instead of confining itself to monetary aspects, it takes a multi-dimensional stance. Beyond this, the CA is most concerned with personal freedom as a constituent of a good life – both the freedom to choose between ways of life and the freedom to influence processes of change. Moreover, the CA addresses the question of justice in terms of enhancing each person’s freedom, understood as broadening her (multi-dimensional) opportunities. With regard to people’s working lives, this mini-conference aims at exploring whether the CA does indeed provide an adequate perspective for judging the transformation of contemporary capitalism and whether it can provide guidance for politics. We invite theoretical and empirical papers on how the CA can be applied to the fields of labor market, labor relations, and the welfare state. Scholars adopting different perspectives on the utility of the CA in this context are invited to share their views on this paradigm of rising influence.

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2. Nonstandard Employment Across Disciplinary Boundaries

Silvia Dorado-Banacloche
Bas Koene
Royston Greenwood
Paul Hirsch
François Michon

Standard employees, those who work a set of hours at a firm’s location and expect long careers within it, are being supplemented/replaced by non-standard, contract, freelance, contingent, temporary, and telecommuting employees. The shift from standard to non-standard employment calls into question established institutional and disciplinary boundaries. The aim of this mini-conference is to bring together scholars interested in the challenges to traditional research streams as well as the new research questions brought about by this shift at the institutional, organizational, and individual levels of analysis. Possible topics for contribution include but are not restricted to (1) the impact of these new practices on the priorities and effectiveness of the labour movement and the state’s welfare agenda, (2) the impact of the growth, consolidation and differentiation of the temporary employment industry on the global reorganization of production and firms, (3) changes in employment and organizing practices within traditional professions and occupations such as architecture, engineering, or accounting, and (4) the emergence of novel communities connecting non-standard employees. International comparisons, especially those focusing on the relationships between standard and non-standard employment, are encouraged. Also of interest would be research on the emergence and challenges of organizations (Worker Integration Social Enterprises, WISEs, in Europe and Alternative Staffing Organizations, ASOs, in the United States) which have emerged, in the shadow of this shift, to directly provide and/or create both standard and non-standard employment opportunities for hard-to-employ individuals (people with disabilities, ex-felons, the homeless, etc). Finally, we welcome papers addressing questions connected with the impact of the growth of non-standard employment on organizational practices and on the workers themselves.

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3. Marketization of the Social: Strategies, Policies, and Implications

Alexander Ebner
Patrick Sachweh

Among the defining features of recent transformations of Western European models of welfare capitalism is the growing significance of markets as a governance mechanism also in those societal spheres where non-market modes of coordination hitherto prevailed. Specifically, market mechanisms have become increasingly important in institutional fields previously permeated by hierarchical modes of governance set by the state. Examples include the liberalization of public infrastructure services (telecommunications, railway systems), the development of “welfare markets” in social policy (health care, old age pensions), and the introduction of activation policies leading to a recommodification of labour markets. Paradoxically, in the wake of the recent financial crisis we would not expect market mechanisms to have become discredited, as some observers seem to suggest in pointing to a renewed primacy of politics. Instead, following from the massive public debts governments across the OECD have amassed, we expect pressures towards further marketization to increase. Importantly, building on the work of Karl Polanyi we view current processes of market expansion not as a “natural” or “spontaneous” phenomenon but instead as a deliberate political shift in the ongoing transformation of Western welfare capitalisms – a “Great Transformation Redux” (Nancy Fraser). This mini-conference aims to analyse the causes, manifestations, societal implications, and paradoxes of contemporary processes of the “marketization of the social” from both theoretical and empirical angles. We particularly encourage submissions that address one or more of the following questions: How does marketization manifest itself across nations? Which specific societal spheres and institutional fields are being subjected to the governance of market mechanisms? What are the driving forces behind current forms of market expansion, and how is state-induced marketization being implemented? What are the societal consequences of marketization, and who are its winners and losers? Is the process of market expansion everywhere the same or does it unfold differently in different Varieties of Capitalism? What are the theoretical implications of market expansion for institutional typologies of different capitalisms?

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4. China and Contemporary Capitalism: Political, Business and Socio-Economic Trends

Douglas Fuller
Thomas Gold
Jean-François Huchet
Jenn-hwan Wang
Christopher McNally
Geny Piotti
Tobias ten Brink

China’s explosive economic growth and institutional reform over the last thirty years are confronting scholars of contemporary capitalism with two pressing questions. First, what are the institutional arrangements of China’s evolving capitalist system? Second, how does China’s capitalist system impact the formal and informal structures of global capitalism? Regarding the first question, this mini-conference examines the characteristics of Chinese capitalism by analyzing the organization of labor, capital and the state. At issue is how to characterize China’s capitalist system (cadre/state capitalism, guanxi capitalism, etc.) in order to place China’s capitalist system in comparative context. At the same time, we seek to avoid static representations of Chinese capitalism, so we wish to explore the actor-centered institutional dynamics of change within Chinese capitalism and its developmental policies, such as the prospects for rebalancing China’s economy from export growth toward a more domestically centered model. Moreover, we aim to understand China’s business environment and systems, especially the peculiar use of social networks and institutional innovations in state-owned enterprises, semi-private and private businesses, as well as in the practices of collaboration with foreign companies. Dealing with these issues leads us to questions of social and cultural changes associated with the introduction of capitalism in China; i.e., changes in consumption, lifestyles, social patterns of interaction and conceptions of the market in a nominally socialist system. Regarding the second question, the mini-conference welcomes work that addresses China’s impact on international standards (labor, technological, financial) and the global organization of production. We are interested in analyzing China in light of dynamic conceptions of the processes of institution building, maintenance and change.

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5. Cultural and Creative Industries in the Global Economy

Christel Lane
Anna Dempster

Paper proposals would focus on industries making products infused with cultural content, such as, for example, various types of text (advertising, television/film, publishing, music industry), fashion/designer clothing or haute cuisine food and wine. Proposals additionally would be concerned with how global markets impact on cultural content and the identities of those making cultural/culturally infused products. Contributions drawing on a variety of theoretical approaches would be welcome, including ‘cultural economy’ theory (exploring tensions between cultural and business orientations); economic sociology (sociology of markets and organizations; comparative capitalisms); political economy (including critiques of the relationship between capitalism and culture/employee creativity); and/or sociology of culture (e.g. theories of the globalization of culture and changing social identities). Themes cutting across industries could include: Reputation-Building in Markets for Experience Goods; Taste Makers in the Restaurant and Fashion Industries; Risk and Uncertainty in Product Markets/Innovation; Labour and Employment in the Face of Risk and Uncertainy.

6. Capitalism in Asia: Sustained Diversity or Increasing Coherence?

Sebastien Lechevalier
Cornelia Storz

The varieties of capitalism approach started from theoretical and empirical research mainly inspired by the European and U.S. experience, focusing strongly on the difference between the Anglo-Saxon models and the European model(s) of capitalism. However, as has been highlighted in the simultaneous alteration of institutional settings and dynamic changes in the economic performance of post-communist transition countries and in East Asian countries, there is a need for a better understanding of the interrelationship between institutions and economic development. East Asia may be understood as an especially interesting testing ground for the varieties of capitalism approach, as underdeveloped (ex-)communist transition economies (China, Vietnam); newly industrializing economies in various stages of development (Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, etc.); and mature, highly industrialized, and increasingly service-oriented economies (Japan, South Korea) meet to create one of the most economically dynamic regions in the global system. Their heterogeneity may also help us toward a better understanding of how Asian countries have managed their respective paths. As the mini-conference intends to bring Asia into the discussion, it will reflect on the following, hitherto underresearched questions: is there an “Asian” model, or, put differently, which varieties exist in Asia and how do we analytically integrate their diversity within different countries, especially China? What are the triggering factors? What role do complementarities in dynamic paths and endogenous and exogenous pressures (i.e., imitating neoliberal models) play in inducing more coherence? Which patterns can we expect in the future, and why?

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7. The Rise and Decline of Neoliberalism: Scientific Communities, Political Technocracy, and Regulatory Regimes

Dieter Plehwe
David Levi-Faur
David Miller

The transformation of capitalism in the last three decades has been driven at least partly by neoliberal reform strategies. Notions of competitive statehood have been strengthened at the expense of solidarity norms prevalent during the previous age of embedded liberalism. If market failure were the constitutive paradigm of the original age of regulatory reform and the welfare state, state failure can be regarded as the paradoxical Leitmotiv of the rise of neoliberalism. Resulting varieties of capitalist governance at various levels (sector, national, EU, global etc.) are currently on trial due to the global financial and economic crisis. But the crisis at the same time has revealed a surprising lack of alternatives, little by way of regulatory imagination, developmental strategies and social solidarity. In the face of apparent contradictions and pathologies of the neoliberal strategies scholars are invited to revisit the history of state, social and economic reform in order to help better understanding conditions of reforms that may move more expressly beyond previous concerns with market or state failure in the future. Proposals for panels might be designed to revisit the history and theories of the state and regulation in general, and the role of intellectual and institutional entrepreneurship involved in the rise and climax of neoliberalism in particular. Proposals are encouraged that will contrast and more closely examine competing regulatory belief systems, paradigms, and policy ideas in conjunction with changing institutional circumstances, interest groups and other constituencies, organizational landscapes (academic research institutes, think tanks, networks etc.) and the concomitant composition of regulatory communities and elites.

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8. Development in Crisis

Diego Sanchez-Ancochea
Aaron Major

Prevailing models of economic development have fared poorly when confronted with economic crises. Laissez-faire gave way to Keynesianism in the wake of the global crisis of the 1920s and 1930s, and Keynesianism was quickly discredited by the advocates for a neoliberal approach to economic development in the wake of the crisis of the 1970s. New calls for enhanced government oversight of financial markets seemed to signal the death knell of neoliberalism; at the same time, neoliberal development models appear to be strikingly resilient in the face of the global financial crisis of 2008, as witnessed by the European Union’s successful effort to force the Greek government to adopt a broad package of austerity measures in exchange for debt assistance. In developing countries, the UNCTAD has recently called for more attention to domestic markets, but many countries are still committed to the promotion of exports and orthodox stabilization. We invite papers from a variety of perspectives that address the rise - and decline - of models of development during times of economic crisis. While models of development are necessarily ideational, and ideological, we are interested in the nexus of social forces and institutional structures that explain the rise, diffusion, consolidation and demise of models of development. Though we are particularly interested in processes unfolding during the current economic crisis, we are also interested in papers that shed light on these questions through historical analysis of earlier periods of crisis. While the mini-conference will have its own sessions, we aim to also promote similar topics in the network on Globalization and Socio-Economic Development.

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