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The Wage under Attack

Employment Policies in Europe


Edited By Bernadette Clasquin and Bernard Friot

Challenging the widespread view of the continental model of social protection as a «corporatist-conservative» system, this book stresses the creative thrust of the two major institutions of the Bismarckian tradition: the social contribution that finances the socialised wage, and the qualification system that liberates workers from the labour market. These institutions have come under attack over the past two decades via European Employment Strategy policies aimed at imposing the Beveridgean model. And the European Union is using the current economic crisis to justify stepping up this reform process.
The conceptual framework proposed in this volume provides the basis for a critical examination of the interrelated developments in European integration and national policies on employment and social protection. As well as contributing to a sociology of monetary resources, it highlights the emancipatory potential of the continental tradition of the socialised wage, and demonstrates the negative implications of the European Union-led reforms.


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245 From “Wage-friendly” to “Employment- friendly” Growth Looking Back on 44 Years of European Union History (1968-2012) Corinne GOBIN Senior Research Associate, Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Since World War II, Western European societies have experienced uninterrupted overall economic growth, doubling the wealth produced every 30 to 40 years depending on the country. In other words, the means at our disposal today are considerably greater than they were in 1945, an era that saw the introduction of social security systems whose broader scope and more universal coverage far surpassed their earlier tentative versions. Yet – the paradox is striking – we are seeing a prolif- eration of discourses and analyses (echoed in government policies) that depict this same Western Europe as being on the brink of bankruptcy, “devastated” by a scarcity of resources that not only limits the possibili- ties of financing the social state (public services and social security) but also necessitates a sustained policy of budgetary austerity and wage restraint. This masterful paradox has come to condition a large part of socio- political relations in Western Europe today. It owes its existence to the political and economic elites’ adherence to a neo-liberal monetarist programme, which became so entrenched in the early 1980s that it effectively stifled democratic debate. The fall of the Berlin Wall served to reinforce the trend, favouring the emergence of an ideology “natural- ising” the economy and presenting capitalism as the only possible path to development. It is in this context...

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