New books


Constructing Unemployment

The Politics of Joblessness in East and West

Phineas Baxandall

Ashgate 2004 278 s. ISBN 0 7546 3930 4
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

As the longest economic boom in history has given way to leaner times, unemployment has re-emerged as a major issue. This theoretically and empirically sophisticated book examines how unemployment takes on widely different political meanings and explores the ways in which governments act to change their own accountability for unemployment. It contributes to the comparative political economy literature that analyzes political responses to economic problems.

Baxandall reverses a conventional application of comparative research by using an Eastern European case to reveal political dynamics that are mirrored in the West - as demonstrated with American and Western European cases. Using interviews and previously unexplored archives to consider a dramatic transformation in the meaning of unemployment in Hungary, he demonstrates how the politics of economic change depend crucially on the political re-crafting of economic categories.

Part I: Introduction: Changes and differences in the meaning of unemployment. Part II: From Multiple Changes in a Single Case to International Comparisons: Communism without an unemployment taboo; Birth of the unemployment taboo and its defence in early reforms; Eroding employment to avoid unemployment; Migratory birds, work shirkers and the redefinition of unemployment; Rising unemployment and its political disappearance after communism: toward regional and international comparisons. Part III: Comparative Cases: Comparative cases of conceptual change: America, Britain, the USSR and municipalities near Geneva; Comparing the political importance of unemployment across the EU. Part IV: Theory and Predictions: How the meaning of unemployment is constructed; The future of unemployment; Bibliography; Index.

'This is the view of the social construction of scientific categories at its most subtle and most elegant. Through a detailed reading of public policy debates in Hungary, the book weaves a a rich and complex story of how notions of employment, unemployment and labor force participation are revised and reconstructed as the terrain of public policy shifts over time.'
Professor Michael J. Piore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

About the Author/Editor
Phineas Baxandall is Assistant Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is also an Affiliate at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University.