Creating Cooperation: How States Develop Human Capital in Europe

Creating Cooperation: How States Develop Human Capital in Europe

Creating Cooperation: How States Develop Human Capital in Europe

Creating Cooperation: How States Develop Human Capital in Europe

Excerpt

Sur veying the hodgepodge of organizations that supports international cooperation in Europe, a bemused French diplomat reportedly uttered, “It will work in practice, yes. But will it work in theor y?” (Fenby 1999, 13). The diplomat would find succor in the literature on cooperation in political science, where the preconditions for cooperation are outlined with Cartesian clarity. Wily individual actors require institutional mechanisms that allow them to monitor one another's behavior and to sanction those who defect. In the absence of such mechanisms, cooperation is likely to fail unless actors are able to draw on an existing repositor y of social trust to avoid the mutually destructive pursuit of short-term self-interest. Over the last decade, some of the most important studies in political science have described an elegant, if dispiriting, world of two societal equilibria: one in which institutions and social trust already exist and dissuade defectors, and the other in which the absence of either institutions or trust condemns cooperative initiatives to a speedy death by defection.

That, at least, is the theory. The only problem, as the French diplomat noted, is that cooperation sometimes emerges where we least expect to find it. Why? Are there predictable features of public policy that are associated with successful cooperative experiments? Or, instead, are these variations so idiosyncratic that they have nothing more general to tell us about cooperation than that it happens where it happens?

These are the questions that provoked me to write this book. The questions led me to examine the reforms of systems of human capital provision, the success of which depends on securing cooperation among private companies. These reforms were attempted in two societal terrains that, according to our existing theories, should be hostile to the creation of cooperation: the civil society of eastern Germany was supposedly supine after decades of authoritarian rule and French society had been reputedly beaten down by centuries of centralized management from Paris. And in both places, attempts to create private cooperation in the area of skill formation have indeed failed—sometimes. Yet both have also seen surprisingly successful cooperative seedlings take root. This variation, and the reasons behind it, will certainly interest those who study human capital policies or European politics. Those . . .

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