Chapter 1: Risk, uncertainty and class in European societies
The financial crisis of 2007–08 and its continuing aftermath have exposed the lives of many working people in the advanced societies to higher levels of economic uncertainty than they had been accustomed to experiencing in recent decades. For some observers this immediately suggests a need for policies that will reduce insecurity, perhaps by protecting workers from losing their jobs. But others contend that economic insecurity is just the other side of the coin of flexibility, and that it is only through some people losing their jobs and having to find others, or accepting lower wages, that the economy can move back to a level of successful innovation; and that without that vital step, everyone’s job is insecure, including those ostensibly protected by employment protection law. But others again claim that exposing large numbers of working people to a high level of insecurity will undermine their capacity to consume, which will in turn undermine attempts to revive the economy. Against this it can then be contended that economic recovery does not have to depend on domestic consumers, but can be fuelled predominantly by exports of goods and services. The outcome of the conflict will vary from country to country. This does not mean that governments and others have ample scope for choosing what paths they will take. At any one point in history an individual country brings with it a set of inherited balances of social and political forces, institutional endowments and a location in international networks.