Exploitation Isn’t the Only Thing Wrong With Work: An Interview with Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck

Interview by John-Baptiste Oduor, Jacobin, June 17, 2021.

Many people’s social status and identity are intimately bound up with the jobs they do. That’s not just pernicious capitalist ideology, Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck argue: it can offer the basis for worker resistance to the power of employers.

In a recent paper, Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck discuss the now quite arcane concept of industrial citizenship and the changing status of work in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For many on the Left, concern with the social status accompanying work takes second place to an interest in the exploitation that takes place within the workplace. This dismissal is understandable, given that the social status of work has often been used to justify forms of oppression.

However, earlier this month, Dukes and Streeck spoke with Jacobin’s John-Baptiste Oduor about the complexity, and the political necessity, of defending a vision of the status of work and workers. The authors reflect on several issues important to the Left, including the legacy of left-wing opposition to social democracy and the possibility of combating the low-waged and ostensibly status-free gig economy.

The ideas discussed here emerge out of the authors’ ongoing joint research project on the social and legal norms governing work. Part of this project will take the form of a forthcoming book, Democracy at Work: Contract, Status, and Post-Industrial Justice, from Polity. (…)

Continue reading on jacobinmag.com

The EU’s war in Africa

Interview by Jonas Elvander, Brave New Europe, June 15, 2021.

Planned was an interview concerning European military intervention in the Sahel. It turned out to become a very interesting conversation about European defence policy in general, and the ongoing attempts by France to establish a (French-led) European army post Brexit.

Jonas Elvander: You have previously spoken about the role of the French army in European politics, especially about how it is deployed in conflict zones as a kind of ersatz European army in exchange for favours from other member states, especially Germany. Can you explain how this system works?

Wolfgang Streeck: To begin with the fundamentals, since Brexit France is the only EU member country that has nuclear arms and a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. There can be no doubt that France sees this as a natural entitlement to European leadership on national or “European” security. Here French national interests tend to transform, from a French perspective, into common European interests. More precisely, there is a French national interest in turning French security interests into European ones, in others words, slip in the role of a European hegemonic power. For this France needs Germany, which is by far the strongest economic power in Europe. It also needs to escape from American supremacy over European security policies, by establishing a French-led Europe as an independent world power between the United States and China, more or less equidistant from the two. Here France as  using the EU as a front would claim Northern Africa and large parts of the Middle East as an area of principal interest where it would bear responsibility for what is called „political stability“, the keeping in office of friendly governments that would listen to France when it comes to access to their raw materials or for military alliances and interventions. (…)

Continue reading on braveneweurope.com

Letter from Europe: Not Over Yet

Sidecar, May 20, 2021.

If your country is part of an international empire, the domestic politics of the country that rules yours are your domestic politics too. Whoever speaks of the Europe of the EU must therefore also speak of Germany. Currently it is widely believed that after the German federal elections of 24 September this year, Europe will enter a post-Merkel era. The truth is not so simple. (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
No resuelta todavía, lejos de ello

El Salto, 23 de mayo, 2021.

Conviene no olvidar que el historial de Merkel como máxima dirigente de su partido es realmente pobre, habiendo perdido votos cada vez que ha disputado una contienda electoral.

Si tu país forma parte de un imperio internacional, las políticas domésticas del país que gobierna el tuyo forman parte también tu política interna. Quien quiera que hable de la Europa de la Unión Europea debe, por lo tanto, hablar de Alemania. Actualmente es moneda de curso corriente creer que, tras las elecciones federales alemanas del próximo 24 de septiembre, Europa entrará en la era pos Merkel. La verdad no es tan simple. (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Deutsche Version:
Noch lange nicht vorbei

Makroskop, 22. Mai, 2021

Was Europa von Deutschland nach der Bundestagswahl erwarten darf. Und wie die Kanzlerkandidaten mit den aktuellen Problemen in der europäischen Politik umgehen werden.

In einem internationalen Imperium ist die Innenpolitik der Hegemonialmacht Teil der Innenpolitik aller anderen Länder. Wer vom Europa der EU spricht, muss daher auch von Deutschland sprechen. Derzeit wird allgemein angenommen, dass Europa nach den Bundestagswahlen im September in eine Nach-Merkel-Ära eintreten wird. In Wahrheit ist das nicht so einfach. (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.de


Letter from Europe: Scandal in Ankara

Sidecar, April 21, 2021.

The European Union has five Presidents: one for the Council, one for the Commission, one for the Parliament, one for the Central Bank, and one for the Court of Justice. (There are also any number of Vice Presidents; after all, we are talking about 27 member states.) Recently, two of the Presidents, those of the Commission and of the Council, went on a trip to see another President, the one-and-only-one of Turkey. From this resulted a scandal, one that is worth reflecting on at some length to continue to learn about that strange beast, the European Union, and its doings. (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Dos presidentes y una presidenta

El Salto, 22 de abril, 2021.

El “sofagate” o cómo legitimar desde las presidencias de la Unión Europea al régimen de Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

La Unión Europea tiene cinco presidentes/presidentas: uno del Consejo Europeo, otra de la Comisión Europea, otro más del Parlamento Europeo, otra aun del Banco Central y otro finalmente del Tribunal de Justicia Europeo. (Cuenta también con un número elevado de vicepresidentes y vicepresidentas; después de todo, estamos hablando de veintisiete Estados miembros). (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Deutsche Version:
Ein Präsident zu viel. Oder zwei?

Makroskop, 21. April, 2021

Ist “Sofagate” der Anfang einer neuen wunderbaren Freundschaft, die Europa für seinen inneren Frieden braucht?

Die Europäische Union hat fünf Präsidenten: einen für den Rat, einen für die Kommission, einen für das Parlament, einen für die Zentralbank und einen für den Gerichtshof. (Es gibt auch eine beträchtliche Anzahl von Vizepräsidenten; schließlich handelt es sich um 27 Mitgliedstaaten.) (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.de


Letter from Europe: Accelerating Decay

Sidecar, March 22, 2021.

Spring is in the air, and Brussels should be buzzing with activity. Remember von der Leyen’s Next Generation EU (NGEU for short), the €750 billion ‘Corona recovery fund’ borrowed from the owners of capital and divided according to an incomprehensible formula between the member states, all 27 of them? This was agreed in July last year, and one might have thought that the EU would now be busy selling debt to its favourite banks. These would then sell the debt on to the European Central Bank, with a healthy profit, making their shareholders happy while fuelling quantitative easing, thereby keeping asset prices up and further adding to their shareholders’ happiness (‘stabilizing financial markets’ is the politically correct term). Well, we’re not bankers, so we don’t really need to know, and, anyway, isn’t such sensitive business better conducted behind closed doors? (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Aceleración del declive

El Salto, 21 de marzo, 2021.

En algún momento alguien pondrá cifras a las muertes causadas por la Gran Ralentización de la Vacunación.

La primavera flota en el aire y Bruselas debería bullir de actividad. ¿Recuerdan ustedes el Next Generation EU Fund de von der Leyen, el NGEU expresado en su acrónimo, el fondo de “recuperación del coronavirus”, cuyo importe alcanza los 750 millardos de dólares procedentes del endeudamiento contraído con los propietarios del capital y que se dividió de acuerdo con una fórmula incomprensible entre los Estados miembros, esto es, entre la totalidad de los veintisiete Estados de la Unión Europea? (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


Deutsche Version:
Beschleunigter Zerfall

Makroskop, 18. März, 2021

Eine Art Götterdämmerung ist möglicherweise nicht so weit entfernt, wie man vor einem Jahr noch gedacht haben mag.

Frühling liegt in der Luft, und in Brüssel sollte jetzt reges Treiben herrschen. Man erinnert sich an von der Leyens Next Generation EU, kurz NGEU, den 750 Milliarden Corona Recovery Fund, aufgeteilt nach einer unverständlichen Formel zwischen den Mitgliedstaaten, allen 27 und zu borgen beim Kapital. (…)

Weiterlesen auf makroskop.de


Putting the brakes on the spread of indecent work

Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck. Social Europe, March 10, 2021.

Important legal victories for workers against platform corporations remain partial and limited in the absence of legislative and institutional change.

The decision of the UK Supreme Court in the case of Uber v Aslam has caused a great deal of excitement, understandably so. The question before the court was whether Yaseen Aslam and others, for some time drivers with Uber, had been self-employed or, alternatively, ‘workers’ with statutory rights to a minimum wage and paid holidays. (…)

Continue reading on socialeurope.eu

Letter from Europe: Vaccine Debacle

Sidecar, February 16, 2021.

Whatever else you may think about Angela Merkel, one thing you must allow her: she knows a hot potato when she sees one, and she can pass it on to someone else in no time. In the summer of 2020, Germany having just taken over the presidency of the EU27, it appeared that by the end of the year there might be a vaccine or two, to end the lockdowns once and for all. To Merkel this must have smelled like an approaching pack of rats: delays in research, delays in production, extortionist prices, conflicts over national shares and distribution – and above all the nightmare of nightmares: Germany, rich from monetary union, getting the vaccine first and vaccinating its citizens faster than the others, thereby undermining the ‘ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’. What to do? Move it to Brussels, and fast. (…)

Continue reading on newleftreview.org/sidecar


Versión española:
Pasar patatas calientes: las guerras de las vacunas

El Salto, 22 de febrero, 2021.

Nunca se sabe con seguridad quién hace qué y por qué en Bruselas y en torno a Bruselas, el sociotipo político más impenetrable desde la desaparición de la Unión Soviética.

Con independencia de lo que podamos pensar de Angela Merkel, hay una cosa que debemos concederle: identifica una patata caliente nada más verla y es capaz de pasársela a un tercero en un abrir y cerrar de ojos. En el verano de 2020, apenas habiendo asumido Alemania la presidencia de la UE27, pareció que a finales de año podría haber una o dos vacunas disponibles, lo cual permitiría poner punto final a los confinamientos de una vez por todas. (…)

Continúe en elsaltodiario.com


“I definitely prefer a cooperative over an empire”

Interview by Noémi Lehoczki, LeftEast, February 11, 2021.

NL: For many Hungarians Germany is a socioeconomic and political model to aspire to. In the current structure of the European Union, however, could the German model even be transposed into the context of the European periphery?

WS: Generally speaking, one should be highly suspicious of the idea that national systems can be transplanted to other countries. Each country has to find its own way to peace and prosperity. This applies in particular in the present case. Germany, highly industrialized and export-dependent, can be and is the growth and prosperity pole of the EU because its currency, the euro, is heavily undervalued, due to it being not just the German currency but also that of the entire Eurozone. While Germany has a huge export surplus, the Eurozone as a whole has an even trade balance. This is an ideal situation for a national economy whose prosperity depends on exports and therefore on a favorable exchange rate. Consider also that the European monetary union makes the markets of the other member countries effectively captive to the German economy: however high the German export surplus with, say, Italy may be, Italy cannot devalue against the German currency as it is also the Italian currency, foreclosing this path towards improving the competitiveness of Italian economy and its firms. (…)

Continue reading on criticatac.ro/lefteast/

Also published on braveneweurope.com

The interviewed first appeared in Hungarian on the left-wing news website merce.hu

Engels’s Second Theory: Technology, Warfare and the Growth of the State

In: New Left Review 123, May-June 2020, pp. 75-88.

Friedrich Engels famously spent his working life in the shadow of Karl Marx, a position he now occupies for posterity, and one in which he willingly placed himself. Born in 1820 in the Rhineland town of Barmen, he left school a year before his Abitur on the say-so of his father and, as the eldest son, entered the family business. An autodidact, then, his encounter with Marx left him profoundly impressed by the systematic-philosophical brilliance of the young Hegelian, whom he hailed as a world thinker. By comparison, he himself was no more than, perhaps, a talent. Among the German philosophizing classes of the time, the type of speculative thinking at which Marx excelled was considered the highest form of scientific endeavour; Engels, who shared this outlook, may have seen his own contribution, grounded in positivism, as pedestrian by comparison. In the collaboration with Marx, he understood his role to be that of editor, reader, publisher, translator, publicist and hence also popularizer of Marxian (not Marxist-Engelsian) theory, making it comprehensible to the socialist movement for which it was intended. That the act of translation resulted at times in simplifications and reductive formulations was not only unavoidable but desirable, though the price to be paid for it was the still-lingering suspicion that Engels was incapable of greater complexity. […]

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Italian translation:

Engels sociologo empirico: tecnologia, guerra e crescita dello Stato

Pubblicato su MicroMega, 8/2020.

Friedrich Engels ha sempre vissuto nell’ombra di Karl Marx. Oggi, nel bicentenario della sua nascita, vale la pena riscoprire l’originalità di un pensiero che alla concezione materialistica della storia ha dato un contributo determinante sottolineando come i mezzi di distruzione esistano accanto ai mezzi di produzione e mettendo l’accento sulla formazione dello Stato, che si inquadra e si sovrappone a quella della classe. Ripercorriamo qui gli approfonditi e rigorosi studi sulla guerra e la tecnologia di colui che può essere definito come uno dei primi sociologi empirici.

Traduzione dall’inglese di Ingrid Colanicchia.

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Labour Constitutions and Occupational Communities: Social Norms and Legal Norms at Work

Ruth Dukes and Wolfgang Streeck. In: Journal of Law and Society, 47 (4), 612-638.

Abstract: This paper considers the interaction of legal norms and social norms in the regulation of work and working relations, observing that, with the contraction of collective bargaining, this is a matter that no longer attracts the attention that it deserves. Drawing upon two concepts from sociology – Max Weber’s ‘labour constitution’ and Seymour Martin Lipset’s ‘occupational community’ – it focuses on possibilities for the emergence, within groups of workers, of shared normative beliefs concerning ‘industrial justice’ (Selznick); for collective solidarity and agency; for the transformation of shared beliefs into legally binding norms; and for the enforcement of those norms. If labour law is currently in ‘crisis’, then a promising route out of the crisis, we argue, is for the law to recover its procedural focus, facilitating and encouraging these processes.