Kretsos & Umney new paper ‘That’s the experience’

The new paper ‘That’s the experience’  by Lefteris Kretsos and Charles Umney looks at jazz musicians in ’emerging adulthood’ and their ambivalence to precarious work. Precarious employment is an important consequence of structural changes in labour markets. Precarity has had profound effects on young workers in particular, often disrupting the process of ’emerging adulthood’. This paper looks at precarious employment in the creative sectors, specifically among jazz musicians. It explores their experiences of and attitudes towards precarity. It shows how participants sought to manage and sometimes embrace precarity as part of the life course, but also argues that this managed embrace was dependent on factors such as family background.

Click here for full paper

Greer Symon paper on workfare regimes

A new working paper by Ian Greer and Graham Symon examines the spread of punitive welfare reforms aimed at enforcing work and discouraging unemployment, what we call ‘workfarism’. While standard comparative theories predict that these policies should be confined to countries with ‘liberal’ political economies such as the US and UK, elements of workfarism have appeared in other countries with more generous welfare states, including Germany. We describe and compare workfarist policy shifts in Germany, Great Britain, and France.

Our comparison highlights two important but neglected factors: the use of markets in public administration and the central power of the state. We also highlight the importance of direct state intervention at the bottom of the UK labor market and call into question the standard characterization of it as a ‘liberal market economy’.

The full paper can be found here.


Lefteris Kretsos on the crisis in Greece

Over the past four years, Greece has been “rescued” on countless occasions. Over the past four years, state legislators across the country and supranational institutions have launched an unprecedented series of reforms aimed at lowering labor standards, weakening trade unions, and eroding workplace and welfare protections. The country has become almost a byword for “structural adjustment” and drastic labour market reforms across Europe. Financial support from the Troika and especially the IMF has been conditional on reductions in public deficits and public spending, initiating drastic labour market reform and a welfare state retrenchment unprecedented in the post war period. Structural reforms and labour market restructuring policies have been undertaken in line with the loan agreements based on the Troika’s premise that labour market regulation and social protection in Greece constituted a significant barrier to growth and a main driver of public debt.

The rest of the summary is here, and here is the full report.

Postdoc position on the TEMS project

We are looking for an expert on Central and Eastern Europe for our research project on the consequences of marketization. This is a three-year fixed term position as part of the five-member TEMS team.  Funded by the European Research Council, we use an in-depth qualitative examination of four countries and four sectors to explore the causal links between changes in market structure and increases in inequality. This post is suitable for a qualitative researcher who either holds a PhD or is close to completing one, and who has strong language skills, a strong grounding in one or more strands of theory, and a clear research trajectory. You should have a background in an interdisciplinary field such as industrial relations, European studies, or social policy, or in a relevant sub-discipline within sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, or geography.

The full job advertisement is here:

For more information on our research group please look at our research unit’s blog (, and if you are interested in applying please get in touch with Ian Greer (

The totalising market and Marxist theory

What are the connections between the concept of ‘the market’ and Marxist theory? How much power should be attributed to the former by the latter? And what is the relationship between the state and the market? These are the questions considered by Charles Umney in the two articles posted below. In the first, entitled ‘The Totalising Market in Marxist Thought’ he traces two different analyses of ‘the market’ as they have historically appeared in Marxist writing. In one, the market is subordinate to production and can be undermined depending on the strategic actions of capitalists. In the other, it exerts an ‘alien power’ over individuals and society. He argues that in analysing neoliberalism, these aspects need to be interwoven in a multi-level critique of the ‘totalising market’. In the second, he applies this concept to Marxist state theory, arguing that the nature of the totalising market imposes a ‘quasi-rationality’ on the state, obscuring its capacity to make decisions.

The two papers can be downloaded here:

The totalizing market in Marxist thought

The Totalising Market and the Marxist Theory of the State

As these are works in progress and comments and criticisms are welcomed. Please contact

Two new papers

The Marketization in Europe team has been busy this summer. Today we have uploaded two outputs from our writing endeavors. One is a semi-final version of the paper by Ian Greer and Virginia Doellgast’s paper laying out the basic ideas behind the TEMS project. A second is Nick Krachler’s writeup of the NHS marketization story, which applies these ideas through a particular case study.

Graham Symon’s notes from Detroit

On Thursday 18th July 2013, Detroit became the biggest US city yet to formally declare bankruptcy; an almost inevitable consequence of decades of decline, questionable governance and an unfavourable position in the fiscal and political hierarchy. It simply cannot raise the income to pay its bills and honour its crippling debts. It will possibly surprise many that metropolitan Detroit actually only has a population of around 700,000, similar to some medium-sized British cities like Leeds and Nottingham. Detroit arguably occupies greater prominence in the collective consciousness for two reasons: its population used to be much bigger – almost three times the size; and, more importantly, it played such a symbolic role in shaping industrial capitalism in the twentieth century.

Ian Greer and myself visited Detroit in early June this year and found much of the tragic declinology to be in evidence: derelict houses – indeed, streets; long-abandoned factories; boarded-up shops and small businesses; poorly maintained roads; clearly dispossessed citizens; an eery quiet that one does not associated with a great city.

For more, read here…

WES 25th anniversary issue

The 25th anniversary issue of Work, Employment, and Society is out now and the articles (apparently) downloadable for free. Among other things, it features a symposium on Lash and Urry’s book, The End of Organized Capitalism (1987), with reviews by Ian Greer, Miguel Martinez Lucio, and Gibson Burrell as well as a response by Lash and Urry. See also Matt Vidal’s fascinating regulationist take on the dysfunctions of capitalism.

Greenwich team visits Athens

On 18 and 19 June, the Greenwich team took part in a workshop in Athens. Little did we know that our presentations would be broadcast live on national television!

The background is this. In the midst of turmoil brought about by austerity in Greece, the government announced the closure of the state broadcaster, ERT, alongside the immediate termination of its 4000 employees. As a result, ERT’s premises were occupied by protesters. When we arrived in Athens we found out that the Greek participants in our workshop had no interest in traveling to the conference venue that day, but preferred to stay in the ERT building. The government could not clear out the building because a court had just ruled that it had acted illegally in abolishing ERT. So, we had a televised debate on trade unionism and austerity.

The visit to Athens was emotional. There was a sense of flux, accompanied by the reality of direct democratic control of an important institution, ERT. But there was also palpable fear about the future of even greater mass unemployment, misery, and authoritarian government, brought into focus for the people we met by the government’s attempt to eliminate most of the jobs in the building.

Lefteris Kretsos organized the sessions; David Hall, Ian Greer, Jane Lethbridge, Maria Mantynen, and Charles Umney took part, along with a number of other academics and trade unionists from Greece and around the world, including Miguel Martinez Lucio and Dan Gallin.  Here is the link to the Youtube video:

And here is a linkk to the Press Project, the brave people who made this possible:

Miliband’s ‘The State in Capitalist Society’ and financialisation

This review, written by Charles Umney, discusses Ralph Miliband’s theorisation of the state. It summarises the book and runs through some common criticisms. It then argues that financial capitalism necessitates a slightly different reading of the methods by which the ‘needs of business’ influence states; one which emphasises the opaque and ‘mystifying’ characteristics of this process. In making this argument it draws on Timothy Sinclair’s research into the mechanisms of global finance.

You can download the full text as a pdf here.

Discussion of Miliband’s ‘The State in Capitalist Society’