Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 6: Clothing Workers after Worker States: The Consequences for Work and Labour of Outsourcing, Nearshoring and Delocalisation in Postsocialist Europe

John Pickles and Adrian Smith


John Pickles and Adrian Smith Introduction The year 1989 signalled not only a shift in the geopolitical structure of Europe, but a fundamental pivot around which patterns of employment and economic life were reorganised throughout Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The integrated supply chains of state socialism with their regional divisions of labour and tightly interwoven networks of full-package producers were – almost overnight – stripped of their primary markets and the planning system that generated materials and wage inputs. Most industrial branches experienced budgetary crises, and decades of infrastructure and know-how were consigned to obsolescence in a matter of months. Hidden and open unemployment burgeoned as state-owned and newly privatised enterprises struggled to retain one of their primary roles under the Soviet system – the reproduction of the labour collective (Clarke, 1993). What Kornai (1992) had called the soft budget constraints of state socialism, with their associated coordination of manager and worker interests to meet quotas and maintain wage bills and input supplies, were transformed overnight into hard budget constraints and intense inter-factional competition to control state assets, re-direct machinery and wages, and either cash-out or leverage control over resources to maintain economic power and viability (Pickles, 1995; Begg and Pickles, 1998; Smith, 1998). The story – one of dramatic geopolitical shifts, economic violence and retrenchment, alongside the emergence of ‘wild’ forms of capitalist social relations – is by now a familiar one (Burawoy and Krotov, 1993; Burawoy, 1996; Herod, 1998, 2001; Ost, 2002, 2005; Pavlínek, 2002). After 1989, the trilateralism in which...

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