As the longest economic boom in history has given way to leaner times, unemployment has re-emerged as a major issue. This theoretically and empirically sophisticated book examines how unemployment takes on widely different political meanings and explores the ways in which governments act to change their own accountability for unemployment. It contributes to the comparative political economy literature that analyzes political responses to economic problems. Baxandall reverses a conventional application of comparative research by using an Eastern European case to reveal political dynamics that are mirrored in the West - as demonstrated with American and Western European cases. Using interviews and previously unexplored archives to consider a dramatic transformation in the meaning of unemployment in Hungary, he demonstrates how the politics of economic change depend crucially on the political re-crafting of economic categories.
Contents: Introduction: Changing meanings of unemployment. From Multiple Changes in a Single Case to International Comparisons: Communism without an unemployment taboo; Birth of the unemployment taboo and its defence in early reforms; Eroding employment to avoid unemployment; Migratory birds, work shirkers and the redefinition of unemployment; Rising unemployment and its political disappearance after communism: toward regional and international comparisons. Comparative Cases: Comparative cases of conceptual change: America, Britain, the USSR and municipalities near Geneva; Comparing the political importance of unemployment across the European Union. Theory and Predictions: How the meaning of unemployment is constructed; The future of unemployment; Bibliography; Index.