Odd Couple


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International Trade and Labor Standards in History

Michael Huberman

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It has become commonplace to think that globalization has produced a race to the bottom in terms of labor standards and quality of life: the cheaper the labor and the lower the benefits afforded workers, the more competitively a country can participate on the global stage. But in this book the distinguished economic historian Michael Huberman demonstrates that globalization has in fact been very good for workers’ quality of life, and that improved labor conditions have promoted globalization.

Michael Huberman is professor of history at the University of Montreal.

"Michael Huberman's splendid book is bound to become a classic reference in the field, and is a superb example of how a skilled economic historian can use the past to illuminate both the present and future."—Kevin O'Rourke, Professor of Economics, Trinity College, Dublin

"How have countries reconciled the need to protect workers against poverty with the pressures of international competition?  Michael Huberman’s tour de force goes well beyond just showing that there was no “race to the bottom” in labor supports before World War I. He unravels the whole causal nexus linking globalization and trade balances to social entitlements, labor standards, hours legislation, labor protection laws, and the process of democratic compromise. For all the depth of underlying empirical support to be found in the back pages, the narrative itself is refreshingly easy to read." —Peter Lindert, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics, University of California, Davis

"Conventional wisdom has it that labor standards and economic globalization are each other’s enemies.  This careful scholarly study presents a very different perspective.  It shows that in many countries labor regulations have grown hand in hand with international trade, as part of a “labor compact” to protect working people from the vicissitudes of the global economy.  The book is worth reading as much for its implications on the future of globalization as for its historical scholarship."—Dani Rodrik, Professor at Harvard University and author of The Globalization Paradox

"In this path-breaking volume, Michael Huberman persuasively argues that the past informs the present. Huberman shows that a historical perspective does not sustain the impossibility trilemma, the popular claim that democracy, national sovereignty and globalization are inherently incompatible. Globalization and the emergence of the welfare state—which is at the roots of the modern democratic state—went hand-in-hand, increasing well-being and declining inequality over the long-run."—Leandro Prados de la Escosura, Professor of Economic History, Universidad Carlos III, Madrid, Spain


"This fascinating reinterpretation of the first era of globalization, 1870-1914, shows that international economic integration was associated with pro-labor social policies; and that these policies in turn often reinforced globalization. Odd Couple provides an original, persuasive perspective on the implications of the international economy on national politics and society – and vice versa."—Jeffry Frieden, Professor of Government, Harvard University, and author of Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century

ISBN: 9780300158700
Publication Date: May 29, 2012
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
15 b/w illus.
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