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Skills and politics. General and specific


  • Streeck, Wolfgang


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, like 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Streeck, Wolfgang, 2011. "Skills and politics. General and specific," MPIfG Discussion Paper 11/1, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:111

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    1. Marsden, David, 1999. "A Theory of Employment Systems: Micro-Foundations of Societal Diversity," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198294221.
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