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Holding the Shop Together

Holding the Shop Together: German Industrial Relations in the Postwar Era

Stephen J. Silvia
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Holding the Shop Together
    Book Description:

    Since the onset of the Great Recession, Germany's economy has been praised for its superior performance, which has been reminiscent of the "economic miracle" of the 1950s and 1960s. Such acclaim is surprising because Germany's economic institutions were widely dismissed as faulty just a decade ago. In Holding the Shop Together, Stephen J. Silvia examines the oscillations of the German economy across the entire postwar period through one of its most important components: the industrial relations system.

    As Silvia shows in this wide-ranging and deeply informed account, the industrial relations system is strongest where the German economy is strongest and is responsible for many of the distinctive features of postwar German capitalism. It extends into the boardrooms, workplaces and government to a degree that is unimaginable in most other countries. Trends in German industrial relations, moreover, influence developments in the broader German economy and, frequently, industrial relations practice abroad. All these aspects make the German industrial relations regime an ideal focal point for developing a deeper understanding of the German economy as a whole.

    Silvia begins by presenting the framework of the German industrial relations system-labor laws and the role of the state-and then analyzes its principal actors: trade unions and employers' associations. He finds the framework sound but the actors in crisis because of membership losses. Silvia analyzes the reasons behind the losses and the innovative strategies German labor and management have developed in their efforts to reverse them. He concludes with a comprehensive picture and then considers the future of German industrial relations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6966-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Since the onset of the global financial crisis in late 2008 there has been a boom in positive assessments of the German economy.¹ Little wonder. Remarkably, Germany has managed to bring down unemployment to more than one percentage point below the precrisis level and to maintain a current account surplus equivalent to 5 percent of its gross domestic product. This is not the first time that Germany’s stock has ridden high. German economic institutions received praise for the “economic miracle” of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the “model Germany” economy that weathered the oil shocks comparatively well during the...

  6. Chapter 1 The Enduring Resilience of the Law and the State in German Industrial Relations
    (pp. 13-42)

    In this chapter I examine the role of law and the state in German industrial relations. This is to familiarize readers with the distinctive history and contemporary features of German labor law because they profoundly shape the reckoning of German employees and employers about what are possible and preferable policies in the field of industrial relations. I also make clear that law and the German state have been crucial in supporting and sustaining the postwar industrial relations regime.

    I challenge two commonly held perceptions about labor law and the role of the state in Germany. First, some scholars have asserted...

  7. Chapter 2 Codetermination: Pillar of Postwar German Industrial Relations
    (pp. 43-82)

    The purposes of this chapter are to acquaint those new to German industrial relations with the history and structures of the distinctly German system of employee participation known as “codetermination” (Mitbestimmung) and to demonstrate that codetermination has played a crucial role in preserving the solidity and stability of the German industrial relations system throughout the postwar years.

    Codetermination “ranks among the foundational pillars of the German economic order.”¹ It is widely seen as “the trademark of a socially regulated, tamed, ‘Rhenish capitalism.’”² Codetermination is one of the most well-known elements of German industrial relations, but it is frequently misunderstood beyond...

  8. Chapter 3 A Quantitative Analysis of Membership Developments in the Postwar German Trade Union Movement: Milieu Matters
    (pp. 83-103)

    In the remaining chapters I endeavor to explain a paradox. Although the supporting framework—the fishbowl, if you will—of postwar German industrial relations has stood up remarkably well over more than six decades, the fish—that is, the employers associations and trade unions—have struggled. Over the last two decades, most trade unions have lost a large proportion of their membership. Similarly, employers associations in Germany’s most prominent and prestigious sector—mechanical engineering—have also lost many members. I begin the investigation of this paradox by looking at the unions. I take a quantitative approach and construct a set...

  9. Chapter 4 Trade Unions in Germany: The Two Postwar Movements
    (pp. 104-178)

    In this chapter, I present a qualitative analysis of the postwar German trade union movement. I argue that despite continuity in leadership Germany has effectively had two trade union movements in the postwar era. The first movement was established in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Its organizing principle was industrial unionism, that is, for each major sector there is one and only one union. The first movement was remarkably stable and successful for four decades. It was a product of the high era of mass production and the unfolding Cold War. The lessons of the Weimar Republic...

  10. Chapter 5 Employers Associations: From Regaining Credibility to Retaining Relevance
    (pp. 179-219)

    Employers associations have been prominent in German industrial relations for over a century, and they remain central actors today. Employers associations and unions are counterparts, but they differ in many respects, the most important of which is that a member of an employers association is a firm or a unit of a firm (e.g., a branch plant) rather than a person. This dissimilarity has numerous ramifications.

    Joining an employers association is a business decision rather than a personal choice. Internal dynamics also vary substantially between unions and employers associations because they are organizations of differing magnitudes. Unions are mass organizations;...

  11. Conclusion: Integrating the Pieces and Looking toward the Future
    (pp. 220-230)

    The five substantive chapters in this book have covered a great deal of ground, much of it in considerable detail. The purpose of the conclusion is to take a step back from the trees to look at the forest that is postwar German industrial relations. I do so in three ways. First, I integrate the results of the previous chapters into a comprehensive picture of German industrial relations. Second, I compare the German industrial relations system to the systems of three major economies. Third, I consider the future of German industrial relations.

    The German industrial relations system has two components:...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 231-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-280)