Neoliberalism, labour and trade unionism

Authored by: Ben Jackson

The Handbook of Neoliberalism

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138844001
eBook ISBN: 9781315730660
Adobe ISBN: 9781317549666


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An important consequence of the rise of neoliberalism to political power in many nations has been a significant erosion of corporatist industrial relations arrangements and labour market regulation. How have neoliberals made the case for such radical reforms? This chapter examines the analysis of labour and collective bargaining developed by neoliberals during their long years in the political wilderness and which subsequently emerged as an influential policy discourse after the 1970s. It first seeks to pinpoint precisely what is distinctive about the neoliberal understanding of labour and then traces in more detail the various dimensions of this radical ideological innovation, encompassing neoliberals’ understanding of the economic relationship between trade unions and employment, inequality and inflation; of the distinction between the state and civil society; and ultimately the neoliberal attempt to dissolve the language of class altogether through the sponsorship of alternative discourses about ‘human capital’ and producer and consumer interests.

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