T2-03: Different industries, different jobs?

6 September 2019, 09:00–10:30

Chair: Oscar Molina


Beyond labour market institutions

The double embeddedness of creative work

Lisa Basten, Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)

In the search for fields in which the changing nature of economic work is exemplified, the creative industries are a common candidate. They are paradigmatic when discussing hybrid work (Manske, 2018)), the project society ( (Windeler & Sydow, 2001; Windeler & Wirth, 2004) and deregulation ( (Haak & Schmid, 2001; Schmid, 2000). On top, a “Creative Industries Turn“ (Menger, 2013) has led to internationally comparable data collections pointing to the enormous economic impact of the formerly disregarded sectors (Mercy & Beck-Domzalska, 2016; Söndermann, 2016). This prepared the ground for their status as a thriving, knowledge-based economy well prepared to meet the calls for innovation, digital change and creative entrepreneurship (Fritsch & Sorgner, 2013).

The puzzle driving my research is why, in a prosperous economic environment, has creative labor stayed precarious but attractive all the same? Why have individuals not been turning their back at this deregulated mess – and why have regulative measures been incapable of alignment? Why the stability?

This paper argues that the answer is to be found in the dual nature of creative work as wage providing labor and artistic expression. I will conceptualize creative work as embedded in two systems and their respective institutional arrangements, drawing from the concept of ‘institutional work’, most specifically Battilana’s “paradox of the embedded agency” (Battilana & D'Aunno, 2010).

Economic work, which includes any “activity undertaken for another party in exchange for compensation” (Cappelli & Keller, 2013) is embedded in a system of labor market institutions (North, 1991; Scott, 2014). On a normative level, informal labor market institutions have formed around different status groups, i.e. their highly legitimized ideal types: On the one end the standard employment relation (SER) with its implications for social and planning security, union representation and strong, often lifelong ties to a company (Dörre, 2011; Mückenberger, 1985). On the other end the idea of the standard entrepreneur (SEP), who acts financially independent, creates economic value and (standard) jobs and whose interests are represented by a professional association (Bührmann, 2012).

Labor market institutions are being challenged by a changing world of work, in which hybrid work relations and freelancing gain importance, in which companies fragment due to digitalized and globalized value chains and in which the values attached to economic work change. In Germany, the regulative institutions of the labor market system have proven very „resilient“ (Scott, 2014) despite the growing gap between their coverage and the reality of a growing number of workers. Creative work is economic labor and thus embedded in the system of labor market institutions. However, it is also embedded in a system of institutions pertaining to the significance ascribed to culture and art in post-war Germany, which I will refer to as the system of artistic significance. On a normative level, the institutionalized public interest of art and culture manifests in Germany in the spending of public money on cultural activities (12,4 billion in 2015) and public broadcasting (7,9 billion in 2016) and thus in economic work opportunities for millions. On a regulative level, a shared conviction that art is a significant part of society has led to changes in the institutions of the labor market system, resulting in adaptions within the social security system (the Künstlersozialversicherung KSK), stretching the competencies of wage regulation into intellectual property directives (‘fair remuneration’ in copyright laws) and expanding the realm of collective bargaining to ‘employee-like’ workers.

I will argue that three results can be drawn from the double embeddedness of creative work:

  1. It facilitates agency/institutional work because actors (individual workers as well as collective organizations) need to adapt to “institutional incompatibilities” (Battilana & D'Aunno, 2010: 39) of two systems. Thus, institutional change is encouraged by the double embeddedness of creative work.
  2. The hierarchical relation of the two systems in terms of resources and legitimacy contains the effects institutional work has in changing the risks of precarity. This is all the more relevant in times when the definition of which creative activity is labelled significant and thus institutionally ‘protected’ is stretched.
  3. The double embeddedness enforces, stabilizes and legitimizes high risks of precarity for most and stardom for few as a legitimate distinction inherent in creative work.

The paper closes with a discussion of what could possibly be inferred from these results for collective, individual and political actors.


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  • Bührmann, A. 2012. Unternehmertum jenseits des Normalunternehmertums: Für eine praxistheoretisch inspirierte Erforschung unternehmerischer Aktivitäten. Berliner Journal für Soziologie, 1(22): 129–156.
  • Cappelli, P., & Keller 2013. Classifying Work in the New Economy. Academy of Management Review, 38(4): 575–596.
  • Dörre, K. 2011. Funktionswandel der Gewerkschaften: Von der intermediären zur fraktalen Organisation. In T. Haipeter & K. Dörre (Eds.), Gewerkschaftliche Modernisierung: 267–301. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
  • Fritsch, M., & Sorgner, A. 2013. Entrepreneurship and Creative Professions. A Micro-Level Analysis. SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research, (538).
  • Haak, C., & Schmid, G. 2001. Arbeitsmärkte für Künstler und Publizisten. Modelle der künftigen Arbeitswelt? Leviathan, 29(2): 156–178.
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  • Scott, W. R. 2014. Institutions and organizations: Ideas, interests and identities. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage.
  • Söndermann, M. 2016. Leitfaden zur Erfassung von statistischen Daten für die Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft: Auftrag des Arbeitskreises KKW der Wirtschaftsministerkonferenz.
  • Windeler, A., & Sydow, J. 2001. Project Networks and Changing Industry Practices Collaborative Content Production in the German Television Industry. Organization Studies, 22(6): 1035–1060.
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Sector level conflict in the public sector and the resilience of workplace labour-management relations

Nana Wesley Hansen, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen

Labour conflict is costly for both employers and employees and often entails poor relations in the immediate aftermath (Lehr et al. 2014: 643). However, we know little about how labour conflict at sector level effects relations within political systems nor about how labour-management relations at workplace level are affected after mobilization.

This article uses longitudinal case study evidence from the public school sector in Denmark examining labour-management relations at sector, municipal and school level before and after a major sector level conflict over the issue of working time.

The conflict entailed massive mobilization of shop stewards and teachers within the schools and ended with a complete redistribution of power from labour to management concerning the regulation of teachers’ working time.

The evidence show that the conflict resulted in deteriorating relations among the bargaining parties at national and sector level for the years to come. With real effects on political sector relations. However, in spite of a highly strengthened management prerogative, school managers at local level continued to include the local union and shop stewards in the regulation of teachers’ working time even in cases when labour-management relations had been strained prior to the conflict.

The article discusses the potential of the classic unitarist, pluralist and radical frames of reference in Employment Relations (ER) to understand this outcome of conflict and change in power relations across regulative levels (Fox 1974, Tapia et al. 2015). The study find shortcomings in all approaches for understanding labour-management relations after conflict and suggest engaging with a renewed understanding of conflict in public sector IR and resilience in labour relations.


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  • Lehr, A, Vyrastekova, J, Akkerman, A, Torenvlied, R (2015) Spillover and conflict in collective bargaining. evidence from a survey of Dutch union and firm negotiators. Work, Employment and Society 29 (4)
  • Osnowitz D & Henson KD (2016) Leveraging Limits for Contract Professionals. Boundary Work and Control of Working Time. Work and Occupations 43 (3)
  • Tapia M, Ibsen CL and Kochan T (2015) Mapping the frontier of theory in industrial relations: the contested role of worker representation. Socio-Economic Review 13(1), 157–184


Passion and interests

Industrial relations in the videogame industry in Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands The role of private regulation and non-state actors in the enforcement of collective labour agreements. An example from the Netherlands

Lisa Dorigatti, University of Milan
Wike M. Been, University of Amsterdam
Luigi Burroni, University of Florence
Maarten Keune, University of Amsterdam
Trine P. Larsen, FAOS, University of Copenhagen
Mikkel Mailand, FAOS, University of Copenhagen

The literature on creative labour and its characteristics has been booming over the last two decades, starting from pioneering work in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These works widely acknowledged a number of common characteristics shared by creative labour in different creative industries and marked by the trait of ambiguity. The videogame industry was until recently largely overlooked by this literature, but recent contributions have started to explore this sector. Still, while the characteristics of work in videogame production have started being analyzed, much less work has been done concerning the role of industrial relations institutions and actors in shaping employment and representing the interests of the sector's workforce. IR in creative industries, project-based work helps explaining the lack of IR in creative industries.

This paper addresses this research gap by looking at interest representation in the videogame industry in three different national contexts, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands. Based on more than 50 in-depth interviews with trade unionists, officials of business and employer associations and of professional organizations, and individual workers and managers within different kind of companies active in the industry, it explores the role of traditional industrial relations actors (trade unions and employer associations) and of new forms of interest representation in articulating the collective voice of different workers and companies in the videogame sector. In particular, we will highlight two key elements. First, traditional IR actors and traditional IR practices, such as collective bargaining, play a rather marginal role in representing workers and companies, and in regulating employment in the sector. Second, the dominant interest representation actors in the sector are business or professional organisations, and informal networks, which often cut across the employer-employee divide and represent the interest of the industry as a whole, focusing in particular on services and lobbying activities for its growth and success. Even if some differences are visible, this situation is present in all three analyzed countries, despite the strong variation in their IR models.

We argue that this situation can be largely explained by the characteristics of employment in the vide-ogame sector. In particular, the high mobility which characterize the industry, with people frequently moving across different employment statuses (employee, employer, self-employed), the strong im-portance of intrinsic motivations, and the differentiated degrees of vulnerability of different groups of workers in the industry, all contribute to distance the industry from the collective identities of tradi-tional social partners and to strengthen the appeals to occupational identities which accomunate the whole industries developed by professional and business organizations.

These findings contribute both to the industrial relations literature and the literature on creative labor. First, this paper provides new empirical material on employment relations and collective action in a new segment of the economy, highlighting the tensions and challenges traditional IR institutions face in changing economic environments. Second, our analysis corroborates recent calls for questioning the “methodological nationalism” of traditional comparative industrial relations literature, highlighting the importance of sectoral characteristics and dynamics in shaping employment relations processes. Lastly, this paper provides an important contribution to the literature on creative labour, by exploring the rather unexplored issue of interest representation in creative sectors and how they relate to sector-specific characteristics. In so doing, it takes up recent calls in the literature for more detailed empirical studies which go beyond a homogenizing view of creative labour and places strong attention to sectoral specificities.

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