Abstract. The paper was presented as a keynote lecture at the 10th anniversary of the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS) in April 2008. It surveys the trajectory of scholarly work on labor after 1945, from its initial emphasis on rights of industrial and social citizenship to its present preoccupation with “flexibility” and “flexicurity.” It recalls the dissolution of the “Fordist” compromise in the 1970s and the subsequent gradual expansion of markets as the dominant mechanism for the allocation of life chances and the governance of society. Marketization encountered surprisingly little resistance, in real life as in the evolving conceptual apparatus of scholarly work. Liberalization proceeded and continues to proceed regardless of the social dislocations it causes, on a scale wholly unimaginable and indeed unacceptable under the postwar settlement. The paper ends with speculation on what if at all might be the forces today that could trigger a Polanyian counter-movement to the progress of capitalist social and economic relations. In particular it discusses whether demographic change, in terms of both a declining birth rate and increasing life expectancy, might bring about a new wave of market-containing social policy.

JEL: J00, J20, J40, J50

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
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