When Time is Money

Contested Rationalities of Time in the Theory and Practice of Work

in Theoria
Author: Barbara Adam
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At the beginning of the twenty-first century work has attained a new local and global quality. Localised and individualised efficiency deals are established where previously standards would have been set nationally and bargained for collectively. At the same time, work is negotiated in the context of a global labour market and global competition: the world, not nations, is the market where labour is traded and the fate of much future work sealed. Electronic communication, low transport costs and deregulated, unrestricted trade dissolved many of the boundaries that used to delimit the competition for work on the one hand, the negotiations over conditions on the other. Since the leading industrial nations have committed themselves to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the rules set out by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it is difficult for any nation to extricate itself from the logic of the competitive global market. ‘At a world level’, as Hans-Peter Martin and Harald Schumann (1997: 7) point out, ‘more than 40,000 transnational corporations of varying shapes and sizes play off their own employees (as well as different nation states) against one another.’ There are always workers somewhere else able and willing to do the job cheaper than North Americans or North/West Europeans.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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