The German model of labor relations is once again attracting significant attention, even if assessments of its health and economic consequences diverge. This review article clarifies debates about German labor relations and illuminates their significance for theorizing the political economy of wealthy democracies. It demonstrates how four different narratives about German practices from the late twentieth century continue to shape contemporary disagreements. While these older interpretations of the German model have been updated, their original assumptions about particular structural effects remain at the heart of current disputes, sometimes hiding as much as they reveal. This article argues that it is time to move beyond inherited abstractions and focus more on the contemporary agency of labor relations actors.
Tobias Schulze-Cleven is an Assistant Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where he also servers as the Associate Director of the Center for Global Work and Employment. He focuses on the politics of labor market and higher education reforms, frequently comparing developments across different European countries and the United States. His research has appeared in outlets such as Comparative Political Studies, New Political Economy and Politics & Society.