Phoebe Moore The International Political Economy of Work and Employability, London: Palgrave, 2010; 192 pp: 9780230517943 (hbk) 55 [pounds sterling]
Phoebe Moore steps into the growing field of neo-Gramscian scholarship with an imaginative and innovative demand that we re-think the place of work and employment in international political economy. In this work, Moore investigates the ways in which employment policies have changed in the era of neoliberalism. In doing this, she theorises changes in employment policy as a passive revolution. This is demonstrated through comparative case studies of employment policies in Britain, South Korea and Singapore. The book also considers the results of these policies, in particular the creation of a precariat; that is, a class of highly skilled knowledge workers, trapped in insecure, poorly paid and casualised forms of employment. Moore concludes the study with a chapter on peer-to-peer production as a new form of agency, capable of challenging the power of global capital.
The International Political Economy of Work and Employability opens with a brief sketch of terms drawn from Antonio Gramsci and the way they are applicable to the process of re-thinking work in international political economy. Passive revolution and trasformismo are especially important here, and describe the process Moore believes to be at work in neoliberal employment policies. Neoliberalism has led governments to change the emphasis of their employment policies from the macro, in which governments used spending and investment policies to create jobs; to the micro, in which governments stress employability, skills and lifelong learning. These terms are all too familiar in today's catastrophic labour markets. This constitutes a passive revolution (see Morton, 2010), in the sense here that it is an elite-led restructuring of policy in which workers are forced to assume responsibility for their own training and skills development. One result, in Moore's view, is 'the ideal type of learner/worker, who can become employable, rather than necessarily employed' (p. 3, original emphases).
The chapter on the skills revolution in the West examines the employment and training policies of the 1997-2010 UK Labour governments. These were billed as attempts to build new partnerships between public and private in education; between government and business; and between universities and business. It involves policy centred on the creation of Sector Skills Councils,...