Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage

Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage

Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage

Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage


'Contains some first-rate analysis.' -British Journal of International Relations.'This volume offers a new approach to understanding the institutional differences and similarities among the developed economies.' -Progress in Human Geography'A milestone in the development of the subdiscipline of comparative political economy... There is no doubt that Varieties of Capitalism will prove to be a landmark text. It is a very important collection, of value to all students in the field.' -American Political Science Review'In a collection of consistently high-quality pieces, there are particularly valuable comparative chapters on industrial relations, training systems, and corporate governance.' -American Political Science Review'Written for the informed, non-specialist observer... a useful and wide-ranging book.' -Financial Adviser'This is an academic book in the sense that it draws on recent advances in economic and political theory - non-economists may find some chapters hard going - but it is also firmly based on an analysis of how companies really behave... an important and carefully argued book.' -Sir Geoffrey Owen, Financial Times'Quoted as one of the six books to change the world.' -New Statesman'It is a useful and wide-ranging book.' -John Sloan, Financial Adviser Careers Extra'This book has been well worth waiting for. It demonstrates the wealth of insights that could be achieved through Soskice's innovative research program that began to change the agenda of Comparative Political Economy more than a decade ago. The volume combines a definitive restatement of the varieties of capitalism approach with illuminative applications to the range of research areas covered by it with some fascinating theoretical extensions. Excellent!' -Professor F. W. Scharpf, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, CologneWhat are the most important differences among national economies? Is globalization forcing nations to converge on an Anglo-American model? What explains national differences in social and economic policy? This pathbreaking work outlines a new approach to these questions. It highlights the role of business in national economies and shows that there is more than one path to economic success. The book sets a new intellectual agenda for everyone interested in relations between politics, economics, and business.


Kathleen Thelen

2.1 Introduction

Industrial-relations systems in the advanced industrial countries are experiencing serious new strains as a result of intensified market competition and adjustment pressures. More volatile international markets since the 1980s have intensified conflict with employers who are seeking greater flexibility through a retreat from uniform, national standards in favor of local bargaining on issues such as wages, working times, and work reorganization. Although expressed in different ways in different countries, two important and pervasive changes have occurred in the past two decades. the first involves widespread structural pressures by employers for more flexibility to respond to changing market conditions, sometimes though not always linked with a push for more decentralized wage-bargaining. These structural pressures are in turn associated with a second, substantive shift in the content of bargaining, away from macroeconomic steering and full employment policies of previous decades and toward greater emphasis on production issues. Both trends are related to broader developments (often subsumed under the rubric of 'globalization') and their combined effect has been to reorient labor politics in the advanced capitalist countries away from labor's traditional national distributional agendas toward employers' firm-level concerns with productivity and efficiency.

This chapter explores the implications of these changes for labor and for labor scholarship through an examination of recent trends in industrial relations across several countries. I take issue with 'globalization' theories that view contemporary changes as part of a universal move on the part of employers to deregulate labor relations, and which attribute

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