Trajectories of changes levels of unemployment in most Western countries over the 20th century move from very high levels throughout the 1930s but drop  dramatically after 1945, retaining low unemployment levels approaching full employment in the following three decades, but rising sharply after the late 1970s, thereafter remaining at very high levels into the 21th century.  Mainstream interpretations of these shifts have largely passed by the potential role of class-related distributional conflict in employment relations. We consider the relative role of distributional conflict in examining the multiple factors of relevance in long-term major waves of Western unemployment. Absent durable rules for allocation of production results, in Western employment relations actors’ relative power resources affect distributional outcomes. Employer economic resources are more concentrated than employee labor powers, the efficacy of which can be greatly increased via collective action. Significant factors affecting long-term changes in levels of unemployment are shifting partisan political power relations among societal interest categories, as well as changing socio-economic institutions for economic transactions in the context of Bretton Woods (1944) settlements and in European federalization emerging in the 1990s. 


The paper willl be available in SOFI mail room Wednesday September 6.



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