Chapter

How Small Countries Negotiate Change Twenty‐Five Years of Policy Adjustment in Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium

Anton Hemerijck, Brigitte Unger and Jelle Visser

in Welfare and Work in the Open Economy Volume II: Diverse Responses to Common Challenges in Twelve Countries

Published in print September 2000 | ISBN: 9780199240920
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199240922.003.0005
 How Small Countries Negotiate Change Twenty‐Five Years of Policy Adjustment in Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium

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Although Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium are so seemingly alike in their tightly coupled, consociational, and corporatist democratic structures and in the “Bismarckian” origin of their welfare states, they have had radically different experiences since the 1970s. While the Netherlands, which appeared in the 1970s and early 1980s to be afflicted with a terminal ‘Dutch disease’, has seemingly been cured, Belgium, with a similar initial profile, has been malingering and Austria has managed to avoid the crises from which the others are recovering. Since all three countries have internationally exposed and hence vulnerable economies as well as policymaking structures with plural veto positions, the success or failure of adjustment policies did depend on the ability of actors to adopt action orientations that emphasize common, rather than separate, interests. The Austrian social partners succeeded in maintaining this ‘encompassing’ perspective throughout the period under study; the Dutch had to relearn it after dismal failures; and in Belgium, the increasing salience of linguistic cleavages added to the difficulty of achieving, and acting on, convergent perceptions and interest definitions.

Keywords: Austria; Belgium; Bismarckian welfare state; consociationalism; corporatism; Dutch disease; language communities; Netherlands; social partners; veto positions

Chapter.  37736 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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