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Contribution to Collected Edition

Skills and Politics: General and Specific


Streeck,  Wolfgang
Institutioneller Wandel im gegenwärtigen Kapitalismus, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Streeck, W. (2012). Skills and Politics: General and Specific. In M. R. Busemeyer, & C. Trampusch (Eds.), The Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation (pp. 317-352). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-8908-C
Skills and skill formation have become central topics in contemporary political economy. This essay traces a key concept in the current debate—the distinction between general and specific skills—back to its diverse origins in American postwar labor economics, comparative industrial relations, and human capital theory. To show how the distinction has evolved over time and between disciplines, it is related to other dual classifications of work skills, such as high versus low, broad versus narrow, theoretical versus experiential, professional versus occupational, explicit versus tacit, extrafunctional versus functional, and certifiable versus noncertifiable. The aim is to reconstruct how notions of skill generality and skill specificity came to be used as the foundation of an economistic-functionalist “production regime,” “varieties of capitalism,” or “asset” theory of welfare state development, and generally of politics under capitalism.