The Third Sector and Securing 'Labour Market Longevity'

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: European Studies


This thesis will examine the role of the third sector, and its
historical non-governmental and non-profit-making
equivalents (NGOs), in securing the longevity of neoliberal
labour market arrangements. This central research question
contains three broad aims. Firstly, to explain the persistence
of neoliberal labour market policies in the UK today,
characterised by employer-led flexibility, the drive for lower
labour costs and acceptance of job insecurity (Rubery,
Keizer, & Grimshaw, 2016). Secondly, to explore the third
sector as quasi-state, extra-market support structure which
contains the contradictions of neoliberal labour markets from
outside the markets themselves. And finally, to contribute to
the conceptual development of international political
economy by supplying empirical substantiation for the
Polanyian claim that markets and society are never
separate, but are continually reciprocally constructed.

The role of the third sector in the modern economy remains
a topic of dispute and is rarely analysed in terms of labour
market theory. Copious literature has investigated the
relationship between the UK state and the third sector from
the perspective of providing moral and fiscal facilitation for
shrinking welfare services (Alcock & Kendall, 2011;
Buckingham, 2009; Kidd, 2002; Milbourne & Cushman, 2015;
Soteri-Proctor & Phillimore, 2013; Williams, Cloke, & Thomas,
2012). Recently Salamon & Sokolowski (2018) explored the
idea that market or state failing has contributed to the
increased importance of the third sector. Their findings
however have been obfuscated by their overly-inclusive
definition of the sector. Some inroads have been made into
conceptualising the sectors importance to the revitalisation
of community in the midst of disruptive neoliberal policies
(Fyfe, 2005). However, there remains little in the way of
demonstrated empirical linkages between this and other
changes in the economy. In summary, research concludes
that through generating community-led solutions to longterm social problems the third sector has relieved the UK
state of a portion of its welfare responsibilities, but how this
fits with broader fiscal and economic changes remains
I offer a conceptual alteration in the way the third sector is
evaluated. It is yet to be asked whether the third sector
contributes to the operation of neoliberal, self-regulatory
labour markets, wherein labour prices are set by the
intersect of supply and demand (see Rubery, Keizer, &
Grimshaw, 2016). This is to say, how does the third sector fit
with institutional arrangements that require rolling back state
welfare to increase labour market participation, increasing
the competition for paid employment and putting downward
pressure on wages while also disciplining those in work (Blyth,
2002; Greer, 2016; Shapiro & Stiglitz, 1984)? Simply put,
current neoliberal labour markets require unemployment
(scarcity) and a minimal welfare state (hardship) to function,
and I hypothesise the third sector plays an essential role in
the UK in stabilizing labour markets of this nature. Indeed, in
various guises, I would argue charitable organisations have
had this role for a long time.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2307472 Studentship ES/P000703/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Haydn Bonar Shephard