Essay Forum: Labor in Financialization

Value Logics and Labor: Collateral Damage or Central Focus?

Authored by: Paul Thompson , Jean Cushen

The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization

Print publication date:  February  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138308213
eBook ISBN: 9781315142876
Adobe ISBN:


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Contributors to this discussion were asked to consider the extent to which the financialization discourse addresses labor issues and the short answer has to be “not very much or very well.” Whilst a good case can be made for a variety of topics covered (Van der Zwan 2014), the weight of research and analysis falls on macro-economic issues that explore the destabilizing impact of financialization on economic growth. Political economy literatures do not completely ignore impacts on labor, but issues of risk and instability are framed as secondary effects of macro regime-level changes. Where effects on labor appear, these are largely as collateral damage; from depressed wages or rising indebtedness, lacklustre innovation, vulnerability to crises and skewed distributional outcomes. The goal of this section of the Handbook is to explore the ways in which labor has entered the picture and to make a specific case that the business models and financial mechanisms of non-financial corporations work through as well as impact on labor. It is also important to recognize that financialization research on firms and labor already poses a massive challenge to the previously dominant human capital and knowledge economy narratives whose causal chain starts in labor or product markets (Dundon and Rafferty 2018). This challenge is finally being recognized in policy debates within human resource professional circles (see Findlay et al. 2018).

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