Research Project: Affective Labor of Employment Agents. Transformation of Public Services in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

The work of employment agents has become an increasingly difficult task – due to growing unemployment and the reorganization of public services. The study examines the processes of state transformation towards entrepreneurial governance and enabling states, and focuses on the emergence of new “activate” labor market policies in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Since the mid-1990s supposedly rational state bureaucracies are transformed into service providers, where citizens ought to be treated like costumers and public employees have to rely on personal communicative and affective properties in the work process. In that context we conceive affective labor as the centerpiece of contemporary service work and as a contested area of New Public Management. The empirical focus of the project lies on the interaction between public employees and their clients – especially on the affective labor of employment agents. The project starts from the premise that the affective work regime in employment services has changed towards marketization of affects and entrepreneurial self-management of employment agents – developments, which might impact on processes of state transformation. The comparison of three countries with rather similar welfare-state regimes investigates if state transformation is guided by national path-dependencies or by the convergence of state roles.

Research teamScientific advisory council
  • Birgit Sauer (project leader)
  • Otto Penz(principal investigator, contact)
  • Johanna Hofbauer(national cooperation partner)
  • Myriam Gaitsch, Barbara Glinsner (junior researchers)
  • Katja Chmilewski(research assistant)
  • Jörg Flecker(Institut für Soziologie, Universität Wien)
  • Wolfgang Ludwig-Mayerhofer(Seminar für Sozialwissenschaften, Universität Siegen)
  • Chantal Magnin(Institute for Social Science Research, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main)
  • Alessandro Pellizari(UNIA Genf)
  • Ronald Staples (Institut für Soziologie, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg)


Funded by FWF-Nr P25293-G22
Duration: 4/1/2013 - 3/31/2016