After the Second World War, the idea of development was associated with the active role of the national state that would support the sustainability of economic growth with social inclusion. After the Bretton Woods crisis, in the seventies, and with the advance of financial globalization, the institutional arrangement of the Welfare State has been shaken. As a result, both the instruments of economic policy and the attendance of social demands were put in question in a context of the redefinition of the scope of public policies.
After some decades, it is a reality that global economic integration, guided by market credibility and financial rules, has broadened social exclusion. As a matter of fact, the new interconnections between wealth, production, labor and consumption have strengthened inequalities. Indeed, the apprehension of the current global inequality issues involves the understanding of the deep tensions between the hypertrophy of finance in economic dynamics and the expectations of society about citizenship, labor and income.
In this context, labor markets have become a key variable in macroeconomic adjustments and business strategies. Capital mobility, price stability and risk management have favored the regulation of social relations based on individual behaviour and performance. In contemporary capitalist societies, global institutional architecture has favored capital mobility and short term investment decisions – increasingly subordinated to rules of portfolio risk management. While recent changes in productive organization have been based on competitiveness and corporate governance criteria, job instability and fragile conditions of social protection turned out to put pressure on the redefinition of survival strategies. In this settlement, workers have turned out to redefine their skills, become informal entrepreneurs or migrate, among other examples of the current worldwide challenges to citizens.
Considering this background, governments have faced increasing challenges to support an ethically defensible approach to working conditions. While money is an end in itself, social behaviors have mainly turned out to be guided by the profit motive. Consequently, social cohesion has been reduced since groups of specific interests have spread their actions and expectations in ways that are desirable to the interest group. Indeed, the outstanding conflicts between solidarity and particular interests have revealed growing tensions between ethical values and individual principles in capitalist societies.