States' Gains, Labor's Losses

States' Gains, Labor's Losses: China, France, and Mexico Choose Global Liaisons, 1980–2000

Dorothy J. Solinger
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    States' Gains, Labor's Losses
    Book Description:

    In this explicitly comparative work, Dorothy J. Solinger examines the effects of global markets on the domestic politics of major states. In the late 1970s, leaders around the world faced a need both to continue productive investment and to cut labor costs to compete internationally in a changed world market. To accommodate forces seemingly beyond their control, they often opted to reduce social protections and benefits that citizens had come to expect, in the process recalibrating their established political-economic coalitions. For countries whose governance was built on a coalition between workers and the state, the political conundrum was particularly intense.

    States' Gains, Labor's Losses concentrates on three countries-China, France, and Mexico-where revolution-inspired political compacts between labor and the state had to be renegotiated. In all three cases, choices to forge a deepened dependence on international capital markets required the ruling parties to fire large numbers of workers and cut social benefits while attempting not to provoke widespread social unrest or even full-scale revolt among their supporters. China, France, and Mexico also shared strong legacies of protectionism and state intervention in the economy, so the decision of each to join a supranational economic organization (France and the EU, China and the GATT/WTO, Mexico and NAFTA) in the hope of alleviating crises of capital shortage involved submission to a new set of liberal economic rules that further compromised their sociopolitical compacts.

    Examining a fundamental question about the dynamics of globalization and worker protest through an innovative comparative perspective, States' Gains, Labor's Losses emphasizes the growing tensions and new compromises between the working class and their political leaders in the face of intense international economic pressures.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6256-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    D. J. S.
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. 1 INTRODUCTION: States’ Struggle between Workers and the World Economy
    (pp. 1-20)

    In the spring of 1979 the maiden elections to the European Parliament were soon to be held. During the campaign in France, Premier Jacques Chirac—along with his fellow Gaullist, Michel Debré—both of them ever allegiant to Charles de Gaulle’s tenacious devotion to French national sovereignty, orchestrated an assault from the right on President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing’s pro-European position.¹ The charges broke out just as the president was sealing a deal on the European Monetary System (the EMS), one of the key institutions that was to pave the way for the European Union.

    On the left, François Mitterrand himself...


    • 2 SIMILAR STARTING POINTS: The State for Labor, against the World
      (pp. 23-48)

      China, France, and Mexico began their outward journeys of the early 1980s from somewhat similar positions. In this chapter I focus on these states’ connections with and commitments to their respective labor forces—or at least the elite portions thereof—from the 1940s to 1980. Three historical aspects of the state-labor dyad were roughly parallel in China, France, and Mexico.

      The three patterns I employ to characterize these countries are these: pre-1980 isolationist/protectionist state policies, as opposed to strategies of economic openness; fundamental political weakness of the working class, as measured by the absence of workers’ ability—through their unions—...

    • 3 THE CUL-DE-SAC IN THE ROAD OF THE PAST: Global Forces versus States and Workers
      (pp. 49-88)

      According to the picture drawn in chapter 2, prior to 1980 the state-labor dyad in France, China, and Mexico operated such that the political leadership in them all had harbored labor; the two stood together, more or less against the world, in a sheltered home market. This chapter embellishes that story of parallelisms by pointing to the ways in which the operative terms of attachment in these places positioned the states to undergo similar economic experiences after 1980.

      Around that year, once the world economy had shifted fundamentally, critical leadership switches came about in each of the three nations, with...

    • 4 ENTERING SUPRANATIONAL ECONOMIC ORGANIZATIONS: States and Global Forces against Workers
      (pp. 89-122)

      Having looked at the structural factors that produced similar predicaments in China, France, and Mexico—through a clash between new global forces and a tried development pattern—I now carry the story forward. Here I examine the processes involved for each set of politicians as, in a bid to resolve these predicaments, each of them elected to enter supranational economic organizations (SEOs). The three SEOs I consider, the World Trade Organization (the WTO; and its forerunner, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT]); the European Union (EU; and its predecessor, the European Economic Community [EEC]); and the North American...


    • 5 UNIONS AND PROTEST: Labor against the State and Global Forces
      (pp. 125-167)

      Once workers were severed from their posts and left the plants or were subjected to sudden cutbacks in their benefits, after 1983 in France and Mexico and in the 1990s in China, one would have expected a strong response. This chapter asks whether and where that occurred. The main question is whether there were changes in levels of protest in the face of abrupt deprivation, with the coming of unemployment surges and welfare cuts, as compared with the past. One might hypothesize—other things being equal—that the comparable historical features that had long linked workers’ loyalty to and high...

    • 6 THE WELFARE OUTCOME: States’ Responses to Labor’s Laments
      (pp. 168-206)

      Now I investigate the linkage, if any, between new and widespread resistance in China versus its relative absence or downswing in France and Mexico, respectively, on the one hand, and state welfare response on the other. Certainly the components of governmental “social expenditure” vary with governments and compilers. Nevertheless, it is still possible to track the extent to which there was a correlation between a sudden surge in resistance in China and novel silence in France and Mexico, and variation in state welfare action.

      Both the French outlays as a percentage of gross domestic product and the Mexican ones changed...

      (pp. 207-214)

      With globalization both besetting and blessing the planet, the issue of the respective roles of the state, the proletariat, and the new forces driving the world economy has been a critical one for scholarship for several decades to date. Taking it as a given that workers are losers, which one of the other two actors comes out on top, many observers have queried? What is the status of the state at the start of the new century? Does labor have any leverage at all in the interplay? And which is it—domestic or international politics and economics—that sets the...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-238)
  10. Index
    (pp. 239-246)