Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Globalization and the possibility of transnational actors - The case of trade unions


Globalization is a comprehensive process taking place on several societal levels, yet with an increasingly interwoven economy as prime mover. The process is driven by conscious actors, states and transnational corporations. Among the 100 largest economic units, 51 are corporations, 49 are states. The result is huge differentials of power and distribution of goods. The problems cannot be handled within national state frames only. This raises the question whether there are actors that may be a counteractive force, a ‘historical subject’. The project shall investigate the international trade union movement, as this is most directly facing the corporations and has the relatively strongest organization among present social movements. Questions to be addressed are: 1) Under what circumstances may national trade unions transfer resources and authority to a supernational federation? Is internationalism governed by interest and/or by an internationalist ideology? What role do national traditions of organizing and policy play? 2) How are global unions reorganizing themselves in order to tackle the new global capitalism? Do traditions from the global North linger on, or are there openings for the new movements in the South? 3) Which factors have made transnational organizing on grass root level possible, within corporations or via comprehensive campaigns where other civil society organizations participate? Have the trade unions been able to reach out to new groups, such as immigrants? From University College Dublin participate Roland Erne, an industrial relations scholar with a Swiss background, from Dublin City University, Sabina Stan, a social scientist with a Canadian-Romanian background, and from University of Nottingham Andreas Bieler, a political economist with a German background. Norwegian participants are human geographer Ann-Cecilie Bergene, and historians Idar Helle and Knut Kjeldstadli (group leader).


  • Bieler, Andreas
    Professor University of Nottingham 2013/2014
  • Erne, Roland
    Senior Lecturer University College Dublin 2013/2014
  • Golden, Darragh Thomas
    Ph. D. Candidate University College Dublin 2013/2014
  • Helle, Idar
    Research Fellow Norwegian Union of General Workers 2013/2014
  • Matos, Tiago Manuel
    Research Fellow University of Oslo (UiO) 2013/2014
  • Stan, Sabina Elena
    Dr. Dublin City University 2013/2014

Previous events


Group leader

  • Knut Kjeldstadli

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2013/2014