The neoliberal transformation of welfare state institutions has intensified social inequalities, raising questions of social justice across European varieties of capitalism. In Germany, this transformation occurred with Third Way social democracy and the consequent Hartz reforms. After ten years of reducing unemployment, this ‘Hartz Regime’ is now cited as a model for reforming other European political economies. Despite this apparent success, it has also received criticism for exacerbating the social injustices of neoliberal capitalism, ultimately leading to the question: how do we know if the German Hartz Regime is socially just?
Drawing on the Frankfurt School of critical theory, this study demonstrates not only how to develop a theory of social justice for empirically studying labour market institutions, but also illustrates it through an extensive study of the German case. The result is both unsurprising and reinforces classical social democratic concerns: not only the Hartz Regime, but capitalism itself, is inherently unjust. By accepting this previously recognised conclusion, the book provides a critical framework for the normative evaluation of empirical institutions, effective for studying the varieties of social (in)justice in contemporary capitalism beyond Germany.
Introduction: Normative Theory and Empirical Research / 1. Defining the Hartz Regime / Part I: How can we analyse labour market institutions with a theory of social justice? / 2. Theories of Justice and Comparative Political Economy / 3. Social Justice between System and Lifeworld / 4. Social Justice in Contemporary Labour Markets / Part II: Is the Hartz Regime Socially Just? / 5. Bringing System and Lifeworld into Methodology / 6. From Lifeworld to System: Action Orientations and Labour Market Integration in the Hartz Regime / 7. From System to Lifeworld: Normative Constraints and Instrumental Reasoning in the Social Structure of German Capitalism / 8. Theory Reconstruction for the Comparative Analysis of Social Justice
Douglas Voigt is currently an affiliated postdoctoral researcher at King’s College London and an Associate Fellow at the Post-Growth Societies College at Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, Germany.
Ambitious conceptually, innovative methodologically, and compelling empirically, Douglas Voigt's book is a must-read for anybody interested in the normative commitments inherent to both welfare/workfare regimes and welfare/workfare scholarship. Voigt delivers a convincing critique of the social investment paradigm in scholarly and 'real world' terms, forcing us to think anew about what we mean by 'social justice' and why that matters.
Though 'critical' is increasingly en vogue as an ornamental prefix, there are few successful attempts to draw on the Frankfurt School in empirical political economy. Voigt's book is a brilliant exception. As such it is so much more than 'just' a normative analysis of the German labor market. It is a path-breaking methodological contribution to the general field.
Social Justice and the German Labour Market is a significant contribution to the ongoing debate on fair and just work and how the Hartz IV reforms break with the idea of institutions reflecting our fundamentally universal being. This book is a stark reminder that it takes much more to achieve social justice in modern society than hitting 'performance targets' and simple labour market measures.
Marrying erudition with insight, Douglas Voigt positions contemporary issues of social justice within a rigorous and original theoretical framework to deliver a rare and rarely powerful synergy between empirical analysis and philosophical reflection. The lucid narrative, often sparkling with wit, makes this important book a pleasure to read.