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.