Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

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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 16: Methodological Nationalism and Territorial Capitalism: Mobile Labour and the Challenges to the ‘German Model’

Christian Berndt

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16 Methodological nationalism and territorial capitalism: mobile labour and the challenges to the ‘German Model’ Christian Berndt Introduction When the former Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, introduced the term ‘Modell Deutschland’ during a national election campaign in 1976, it reflected the self-confidence of a political economy apparently at the height of its evolution (Esser et al., 1979; Esser and Fach, 1981). Disappearing quickly from the German scene in the wake of economic difficulties, it was in fact foreign academics and journalists who kept the mythical keyword alive (for example, Markovits, 1982). The label gained new popularity during the 1990s, when attention turned to territorial capitalist variants (for example, Albert, 1993; EspingAndersen, 1994) and again more recently with the ‘varieties of capitalism’ approach (Hall and Soskice, 2001). Difference in detail notwithstanding, there is broad agreement in the literature that the institutions formatting labour relations constitute a key building stone of the German Model (Bathelt and Gertler, 2005; Berndt, 2001). In today’s global age, where the conditions allowing the production of quasi-natural national economies and societies have ceased to exist, the viability of territorial capitalist models is increasingly put into question. Applying a perspective which privileges mobility over stability, this chapter analyses the dilemmas confronting the contemporary German political economy focusing on industrial and labour relations. I argue that the German Model was founded on a particular geographical compromise: resting mainly on the mobility of goods, the country’s economic success crucially depended on an elaborate regime of limited cross-border mobility of production factors (labour,...

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