Managing Modern Capitalism: Industrial Renewal and Workplace Democracy in the United States and Western Europe

By M. Donald Hancock; John Logue et al. | Go to book overview

2.
Industrial Policies in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany: A Study in Contrasts and Convergence

M. DONALD HANCOCK

National industrial policies have consistently proved more active during the postwar period in Western Europe than in the United States. In the particular case of the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany, national governments initiated a variety of interventionist policy measures and institutional reforms in response to successive economic crises from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s. Policies included a mix of general and selective industrial policies that were formulated and implemented through corporatist decision-making structures. National cabinets in all three countries subsequently retreated from targeted economic intervention as the international economic crisis eased, although even Britain--which represents the most extreme instance of policy and institutional retrenchment among the three cases--retains a more comprehensive industrial policy than the United States.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the declared intent, content, and domestic effects of British, Swedish, and German industrial policy during successive phases of postwar economic performance. These three countries constitute contrasting studies of policy shifts over time between regulated market, social market, and coordinated market approaches to economic management. Such shifts are associated with a diminution in reliance on formal corporatist policy- making arrangements in Britain and the Federal Republic (though not in Sweden).


THE UNITED KINGDOM

A combination of erratic economic performance and policy discontinuity has consistently distinguished postwar Britain. Although national wealth increased in absolute terms after 1945, the United Kingdom became a laggard nation in terms of relative economic performance during the 1950s and 1960s as its annual growth rate and per capita GNP (gross national product) fell behind those of other leading industrial democracies. In response, alternating Conservative and Labour governments experimented from the 1960s onward with a variety of institutional and policy innovations designed to overcome the debilitating domestic and international consequences of the "British disease" of sluggish growth accompanied by recurrent labor conflict.

Changes in national economic policy under the Conservatives and Labour have entailed successive shifts in patterns of general economic management

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