WSI Mitteilungen

: Issue 01/2019

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 3-12

Thomas Barth, Georg Jochum, Beate Littig

Power-analytical perspectives on (un)sustainable work


The transition towards a sustainable working society involves a deep socio-ecological change. In this article the authors argue that a power-analytical approach is indispensable to understanding and overcoming the barriers to such a transformation, and to identifying the options and actors for factual change towards sustainability. They aim to show the usefulness of the heterogeneous power discourse in the social sciences and especially in the research fields of work and sustainability to explore the pathways towards a sustainable working society. This approach is demonstrated based on the example of working and production conditions in global meat production. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 13-21

Sarah Nies

Valorisation and obstinacy. Sustainability in workers’ own conceptions of work objectives


Sustainable work is concerned with more than the living and working conditions of the employees involved, it also refers to work and production within a broader set of interrelations in social, spatial and temporal terms. Likewise, while being confronted with the performance targets of management, workers express their own distinct conceptions of work objectives closely related to the external impact of their work. The article discusses the extent to which issues of sustainable work are addressed as part of the tensions between claims on content-related work demands and demands of valorisation. A brief overview of two empirical case studies (customer advisory service and engineering) shows that while workers’ demands on work content are highly defined by value of use, sustainability goals are not necessarily part of their claims. However, the threat to their own work objectives opens up disputes about the purpose of production. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 22-30

Stefanie Graefe

Exhaustion, resilience, sustainability. The new subjectivity of work


Current debates on the ecological consequences of the global rise of resource and energy consumption increasingly address the subjective costs of the post-Fordist economy. Subsequently, the concept of “sustainable work” claims to bundle both dimensions – the exploitation of the “inner” as well as the “outer” nature of man – and thus to conceptually support the socio-ecological transformation of the working society. The article first discusses the assumed relationship between the ecological and subjective dimensions of work. Based on the example of increasing mental exhaustion rates in the context of subjectivised work, it is demonstrated that greater social sensitivity to the health of employees does not necessarily lead to more sustainable employment conditions, but can also help to reinforce the underpinning logic of subjectivised work. This is illustrated through the increasingly popular concept of resilience. Finally, the critical content of the concept of sustainable work in the context of subjectivised work and psychosocial well-being is raised. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 31-38

Martin Coy, Frank Zirkl, Tobias Töpfer

Peripherally and yet globally linked. The Brazilian agribusiness and its consequences for spatial processes and working environments


Effects of globalisation not infrequently cause significant economic and social changes in rural areas. In the case of the Midwestern region of Brazil, which is dominated by state-of-the art agribusiness, especially for high-yield cash crops such as soya beans produced for a global market, there have been some severe changes: the rural population being displaced by the modern agribusiness. Equally some significant changes in the regional urban development as well as in regional work regimes have been observed. The authors describe the driving forces, cycles, and impacts of the change processes using the example of one Brazilian region and they discuss the resulting problems for sustainable development. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 39-47

Markus Wissen, Ulrich Brand

Working-class environmentalism and socio-ecological transformation. Contradictions of the imperial mode of living


Beginning with Fordism, wage labour in the global North has been a component of an imperial mode of living: The exploitation of labour has been alleviated by the possibility of externalising socio-ecological costs in space and time. More recently however, multiple crisis phenomena have indicated that this constellation could have come to an end. The promises of the imperial mode of living seem to be less and less redeemable, not only for most of the people in the global South but also for an increasing number of workers in the global North. Future jobs and wealth can no longer be attained – given that authoritarian solutions are excluded – at the cost of socio-ecological destruction but by the very protection of the environment. The authors discuss the resulting opportunities and obstacles for a socio-ecological transformation and an active participation of workers and unions herein. They analyse to which extent the intensifying contradictions of the imperial mode of living can be dealt with through a working-class environmentalism (Stefania Barca), which essentially consists of an organic link between wage labour, reproductive work and ecology. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 48-51

Nora Lohmeyer

Power and countervailing power in global supply chains in the garment industry: The ExChains network


Global supply chains – not just in the garment industry – are characterised by huge power asymmetries between workers and their globally operating employers. Given these unequal power relations, a change in the working conditions of workers requires particular approaches. The garment worker and trade union network ExChains demonstrates how building local bargaining power can be combined with transnational solidarity work. It thus serves as an example for the development of countervailing power, but also shows ways towards the necessary transnationalisation of union work more generally. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 52-58

Klaus Pickshaus

Good work and the ecology of work. Contextual conditions and problems of strategy


Good work with a broad understanding of work-related ecology is a key topic of the upcoming socio-ecological transformation of work and industry. On the basis of the health risks to employees, this article develops an understanding of an “ecology of work” comprising a mode of production and a way of life that are compatible with nature as well as questions of employment security and quality of work in the context of a socio-ecological transformation. A sustainable strategy will have to respond to the conflicting objectives occurring in this transformative process. The author proposes decision models centered around forms of democratic participation. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 59-63

Sybille Pirklbauer, Florian Wukovitsch

Sustainable work – a perspective from the Chamber of Labour (Austria) on the representation of interests of employees


How can the groups representing the interests of employees contribute to strengthening sustainable work, both socially and ecologically? The authors discuss this question from the perspective of the Chamber of Labour, the statutory interest representation of employees in Austria. The term sustainable work comprises equally the support of the regenerative capacities of nature as of society and individuals. The relevant policy fields presented in this article therefore include alternative concepts of economic prosperity and social progress, aspects of a just transition to a low-carbon economy and claims for a balanced allocation of gainful employment and reproductive work, thus also indicating the requirement for a further reduction of working time. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 64-70

Reinhard Loske

The two faces of the sharing economy. Recommendations for public interest regulation aimed at the welfare of the community


A worldwide boom of the sharing economy can currently be witnessed which is having an impact on various sectors of the economy, including labour. There are mainly two reasons why aspects of the sharing economy such as ride and car sharing, apartment and office sharing, food sharing or crowdfunding are showing enormous growth rates: the opportunities provided by the internet to bring together supply and demand within seconds, and the declining importance of ownership compared to “access” in modern capitalism. Over recent years a tendency towards commercialisation could be observed in the sharing sector that was originally driven by more idealistic motives. Multi-billion dollar companies such as Airbnb and Uber are symbols of this development. They are the winners, but they also produce losers in society. In this article four perspectives of the sharing economy are presented: sustainability oriented, business oriented, solidarity oriented, and a traditional conservative perspective. The author argues that the sharing economy needs a regulatory framework that ensures social rights, environmental sustainability and fair competition. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 71-74

Sebastian Brandl

On the marginality of extended concepts of work


Definitions of sustainable work range from green jobs as a modernised model of work by means of environmental protection to extended concepts of work. The latter focus on the potentials of all forms of work for individual und societal need satisfaction and development capacity in order to meet the multiple norms of justice of sustainability. However, extended work concepts are marginal in the discourse on sustainable development und sustainable work. The article points out the reasons for this fact and identifies challenges for the further development of extended concepts of work. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2019, pp. 75-77

Karina Becker

Exclusionary sustainability through power relations and social inequality in enterprises


The article takes up the observation that the sustainability of one individual’s working and living conditions and health is anything but sustainable for others. Based on two examples, the author discusses the thesis of an exclusionary sustainability. In organised work in enterprises, it is particularly those employees involved in precarious employment who are excluded from sustainable standards of protection. And work arrangements in private households often involve solutions to self-care which create conflicts for the employers which are accompanied by non-sustainable health and well-being conditions for migrant workers. more... (in German)