The Political Economy of Social Pacts: ‘Competitive Corporatism’ and European Welfare Reform

Martin Rhodes

in The New Politics of the Welfare State

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780198297567
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600104 | DOI:
The Political Economy of Social Pacts: ‘Competitive Corporatism’ and European Welfare Reform

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This is the third of three chapters on the role of economic interests, and of systems for representing those interests, in the politics of welfare state reform; they explore the linkages between national welfare states and national economies, and examine the processes through which economic actors press their interests on policy makers. Here Rhodes explores the implications for welfare states of nationally negotiated social pacts in bridging and making innovative linkages between social security systems and employment rules and wage bargaining. The essential argument of Sect. 1 is that the emergence of social pacts is linked to common domestic and external pressures for welfare state reform in the European Union, and that contrary to the expectations of many commentators, these pressures are neither ‘disorganizing’ European capitalism nor neutralizing the power of the state; furthermore, rather than fragmenting political‐economic structures, pressures for reform have in many instances modified or even bolstered efforts at coordination via bargaining. Section 2 introduces the notion of ‘competitive corporatism’, and shows that underpinning these social pacts are varying degrees of associational cohesion, and two types of coalition — seeking distributional deals and productivity gains — which have complex linkages and overlaps. In ideal typical terms, it can be suggested that competitive corporatism is successfully achieved if underpinned by a close but flexible interlocking of these two types of coalition, although in practice it is not always possible, as has been demonstrated in various continental European countries.

Keywords: associational cohesion; coalitions; competitive corporatism; continental Europe; distributional deals; economic interests; employment rules; European Union; political economy; pressures for welfare state reform; productivity gains; social pacts; social security systems; wage bargaining; welfare state; welfare state reform

Chapter.  13620 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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