A Transnational Approach to Work: Methodological Issues

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal III (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Benedicte ZIMMERMANN, EHESS Paris, France
This contribution is based on an empirical case-study in French and German sites of different multinational groups. The project analyses, on the one hand, the interplay of multinationals’ HRM policies with a variety of local factors (e.g. institutional, economic, social, cultural) and, on the other hand, how local workers deal with multinational policies and requirements.

It examines methodological issues pertaining to a transnational approach to work in the context of multinational firms. Categories, scales and experience are the three key words that guide this discussion. How do shared categories of action emerge – or not – in a transnational context? Which kind of translation processes, linguistic as well as social and political, are necessarily involved? To what degree does a firm grasp of these processes impinge on the analytical tools and categories of sociological reasoning itself?

Another set of questions is related to the scales of analysis. What exactly does transnational mean? Is it merely a supplementary scale of analysis? Of what does this scale concretely consist? Where is the locus for making observations regarding transnational issues? Transnational issues in matters of work present the challenge of addressing, within the same research parameters, a number of organizations, institutions and policies at different territorial levels (for example at the group level where policies and strategies are decided and at local sites where the work is performed); the challenge is furthermore to intertwine these levels with individual workers biographies, which are themselves impacted by various factors ranging from the personal to the environmental (e.g. organizational, cultural, social, educational). This brings into play the issue of individual and collective experience and the tension which exists between the rationales of transnational firms and that local embeddedness of human and social relations which goes to shaping the daily experience of work and life.