Selected abstracts

(2015) "Work, Power and the Urban Poor"

For decades now social sciences have not considered the power relations within work and production as a source or determinant of politics and political power. This chapter presents an approach which could help restore the emphasis on the connection between work and politics through consideration of the human power relations that surround different work situations and the different views of the world they create for the people involved. In the concluding part of the chapter it is argued that much of current political turbulence and events can be traced to the increasing number of persons in unprotected work – those whose conditions and return to work are no longer protected from the exercise of unrestrained exploitative power in the workplace.

(2011) "Global Weimarism: Or why the centre cannot hold"

Blog essay

The 1919 Weimar Republic in Germany collapsed when the political liberal government could not prevent the rise of the authoritarian right. There were three elements of Weimar situation - the collapse of the elite aristocratic government, the immobilism of the political liberal Weimar government in power and the rise and success of the right populist party. These three elements are currently found at the global level. The first element is represented by the attempt in the last quarter of the 20th century to create cooperating, governing global elite centered on banks and corporations. This attempt failed and by the first decade of the 21st century national and regional elites had returned to competition and extraction from each other. Current governments, almost all existing with a political liberal hegemony, have been unable to make the changes necessary to prevent the third element of Weimar - the rise of right populism in Europe. However at the global level the emergence of a left populism in Latin America and elsewhere makes a global outcome similar to the failure of the Weimar Republic less certain.

(2008) "The International Labour Organisation and the World Labour Force: From "Peoples of the World" to "Informal Sector"

Scribd Web-published

At its foundation in 1919 the ILO (International Labour Organisation - a specialised agency of the United Nations) was actively involved in global politics through its incorporation of trade unions in its governing structure. But the organisation found it difficult to deal with the largest portion of the world labour force that which is not organised into unions or other social organisations. Thus, currently, unlike the ILO in the first quarter of the last century, it cannot easily devise strategies for intervention into different structures of work nor anticipate the socio-political importance of them. This problem is not directly assigned to the ILO, its staff or leadership but to the interplay of external and internal ideologies and rationalities. The article then develops a "concept history" by examining chronologically some of the concepts which have been used at different times to both exclude and include the unorganised, unprotected majority of the world labour force. There follows a discussion of the succession of concepts used by and within the ILO as, for example, "peoples", "masses of workers" "worker", "unionist", "informal sector", and "poor". It is noted that the newer concepts still result in exclusion because they are not flexible enough to allow a narrowing of focus which would in turn reveal the power and social dynamics of variegated economic activities.

 (2006) “The Century of the Corporation

by Jeffrey Harrod

in C. May (ed) Global Corporate Power (London, Lynne Rienner) pp. 23-46

This paper first attempts to theorize the corporation by first disembedding it from the Smithian and Marxist versions of capitalism which had no place for production organisations as opposed to enterprises in the market. This requires an examination of the sectoral concentration of the past years which has lead to the corporate destruction of the market as a force regulating it. Re-situating the corporation as a lead institution at the beginning of the 21st century requires seeing it as a permanent structure of national and global governance to which bureaucratic, democratic, realist and post-modern theories will have to apply. The legitimizing rationality provided by competition in a market has weakened, and the attempts to provide an expanded rationality - social responsibility and welfare enclaves - have had limited success.

Two developments of the corporation produce both its current position and contradictions.  First the move  from rational profit  to post rational rent seeking and second its pro-active creation of consumption.  At the domestic level this has required greater involvement in traditional government and political parties to secure to power and authority for wide-scope operations in natural monopolies and at the global level the need to secure access will preserving state power over populations.

Finally, while the corporation in its current form will remain permanent and powerful the social contradictions engendered by its operations are likely to increase social divisions with unknown consequences. The implications for global governance and global politics of this perspective on the corporation requires the consideration of the creative need for reorganizing the structure of power as was necessary at the time of the decline of the church, the rise of the state and now the rise of the corporation.

The Global Poor and Global Politics: Neo-Materialism and the Sources of Political Action

By Jeffrey Harrod

in M. Davies and M. Ryner (eds) Poverty and the Production of World Politics (New York, Palgrave Macmillan )

This chapter starts  has a two-fold objective.   First, it  presents an approach which focuses on the productive, or work, activities of people.  It  examines the power relations which surround work and the attitudes and  world views which people derived from these experiences  which in turn are important to the role of such people and potential in social and political change and development.  This approach, here called neo-materialism, is an approach which, however, can be applied to the whole of the world labour force.

In the second part the approach is applied to a contemporary segment of the global labour force which is called a variety of names such as underclass, laboring  poor, urban marginals, precarious workers  but in which are found the majority of the conventionally defined global poor. The objective its to illustrate  that a neo-materialist approach, in which such blanket segments of productive populations are disaggregated using the criteria of work and power relations, can make an important contribution to the analysis  of contemporary world political events. 


(2004)  “Global  Unions: Constraints in an Age of the Politics of the Underclass”

by Jeffrey Harrod

in Marcel van der Linden and  Berthold Unfried (eds), Labour in a Globalizing World (ITH, Austria ) pp.89-102

It is suggested that the heroic period of international labour organizations was in the period of 1970 to 1985. In this period international policies and  general discussions and deliberations at the sub-state level involved organized labour at both the national and international level.  The weakeness of trade unions nationally has affected the position of the international labour but in addition political attention has shifted from organised labour to the unorganized (but potentially politically active) poor or underclass. This has meant that unlike the situation in past decades it is no difficult even to secure a hearing for the problems and the importance of formal labour and its organizations.

(2003) “The New Politics of Human Rights

by Jeffrey Harrod

in K. Aarts and P. Mihyo (eds) Responding  To The Human Rights Deficit (The Hague Kluwer) pp. 61-72

An essay making the argument that the neglect of social and economic human rights in favour of civil and political rights has meant that costs of defending human rights, so defined, has been reduced.  This observation explains the seeming contradiction that traditionally conservative parties and peoples now champion the restricted definition of human rights; they can do so apparently without fear of encouraging or supporting economic and social rights which are distributive in intent.

(2002a)    “Towards an International Political Economy of Labour”

by Jeffrey Harrod

in J. Harrod and R. O’Brien (eds) Globalised Unions: Theory and Strategy of Organised Labour in the Global Political Economy 2001 (Routledge)  pp.50-63

(Summary is extract from opening chapter of book)                         

A sounder understanding of global political economy and history requires a reconsideration of the role of labour and its control and motivation.  Using concepts as labour market wage determination, labour cost, labour productivity, and theories of trade unionism, corporatism and systems of labour control and motivation it is argued that an international political economy of labour can be created.  While labour can be considered as the driving force of history the argument here is to develop a better understanding of the role, position, impact and importance of labour within current discussions of trade and investment, models of capitalism and from there to contemporary global politics. A subject area of the international political economy of labour would also contain the basic material and tools of analysis necessary for the considering the future of organised labour at the international level and the policy issues for any potential global unions.

(2001)”Global Realism: Unmasking Power in the International Political Economy

by Jeffrey Harrod

in  R. Wyn-Jones (ed) Critical Theory and World Politics, ( Lynne Reinner) pp. 111-125.

In this article it is first argued that realism as an approach to the comprehension of society and politics that is, a "real" or societal realism, must be distinguished from a realism which emerged as central to the study of inter‑state relations, or international relations realism. Realism as an approach and philosophy was essentially developed and directed at relations within societies and its application to relations between societies ‑ nation states ‑ has not only introduced confusion in the discussion of international politics but has also hindered its more useful application to global society. Second, the contemporary rise of the power of the corporation at the expense of the state has produced in the current period power‑disguising rationalities which, more than ever, require the application of the original realism project of unmasking social and political power. In conclusion it is noted that a global realism, as part of critical theory, is needed as an approach to comprehend contemporary developments and thereby lay the foundations to change them.