Social capitalism is a thing of the past
The German Model today is something very different from the social capitalism of the Fordist era: it is an export-oriented capitalism resting on a form of competitive solidarity which combines domestic selective social inclusion with European half-hegemonic economic dominance. Its old ‘social’ elements were transformed during the 2000s in a process that we call Landnahme and that entailed the selective dispossession of wage earners and re-commodification of protected social spheres (such as the welfare state). Structural changes and the Agenda 2020 labour market reforms, in particular, have led to a ‘precarious full-employment society’ where a significant section of the population lives below the threshold of respectability, trade unions are weakened, and a threatened core employed workforce develops forms of ‘exclusive solidarity’. The 2008–09 crisis saw the re-emergence of forms of regulation and social partnership, but their success rested on a single-minded focus on exports which exacerbated internal and external asymmetries. This new constellation has led to a transformation of wage earners’ subjectivity and labour conflict, challenging the traditional perspectives of both trade union work and labour sociology.