Domestic economic institutions change through processes of conflict and bargaining+ Why do the strongest groups in such conflicts ever change their minds about the acceptability of institutional arrangements they once opposed? Drawing on the cases of Ireland in 1986–87 and Italy in 1989–93, this article demonstrates how the process of common knowledge creation between employers and unions changed the course of negotiations over national wage bargaining institutions+ Common knowledge creation happens when existing institutions are in crisis+ The institutional experimentation that follows such crises, characterized by deep uncertainty, places a premium on persuasive argument+ The ideas most likely to serve as the basis for newly common knowledge will have analytical and distributive appeal to both unions and employers, and they must be ratified in public agreements, which I call common knowledge events. Common knowledge events establish new social facts, which can change the payoffs associated with different institutional outcomes. This can lead even powerful actors to accept institutions they had previously opposed.
It is tempting, but wrong, to infer from the failures of the EU draft constitution that all reforms based on increasing citizen participation in the European Union are doomed to fail. Andrew Moravcsik’s trenchant dismissal of the constitutional project commits this error. Moravcsik’s sweeping claims, based on what he calls empirical social science, speak well beyond the evidence on democratic institutional innovations. Participatory measures such as consultative Citizens’ Assemblies may articulate a citizens’ perspective that can help to anchor the democratic legitimacy of the EU. We do not know if such innovations can resolve the problems of the democratic deficit, but we do know that empirical social science has not spoken decisively on the issue. It is worth examining their democratic potential rather than dismissing them outright.
Prevailing theories in political economy hold that a coalition or political party, acting through parliament, can break down institutions of stable shareholding. In spite of extremely favourable conditions in the late 1990s—the election and durable rule of a leftist government supported by a transparency coalition, a bureaucratic elite that favoured institutional change, and substantial state shareholdings which the government could privatize in pursuit of its objectives—these reforms failed to affect the concentration of shareholdings among the largest private companies in Italy. This disjuncture between legal change and actual practice in Italian corporate governance suggests that current theories of institutional change in corporate governance systems are incomplete. The focus of inquiry needs to turn to the political resources of those who support the existing system: managers and large shareholders.
The varieties of capitalism literature has put skill systems at the center of comparative politics. Yet its claims about skill specificity are driven by two large coordinated economies, Germany and Japan. This article examines political change of skills in two small coordinated economies. Switzerland has expanded its general skills orientation, whereas Austria retains a highly specific skills system. The cause of this divergence is the different interests of small and large employers: Small employers are more cost sensitive than are large employers, which leads them to oppose the introduction of more general education. The study also shows that the primary measure of skill specificity used in quantitative work—vocational training share—is unreliable. It fails to distinguish between secondary and tertiary vocational training, which have opposite effects on skill specificity. The article develops and justifies an alternative measure—tertiary vocational training—that better predicts the skills clusters observed in advanced capitalism.
When social scientists talk about the adoption of new governance arrangements in a given policy area, their questions are most often functional: What will those new arrangements do better than the previous way of making policy? Yet politicians do not always, or even usually, pick policy solutions because they offer the best functional answer to a policy problem. Instead, they adopt solutions at a given time that advance their electoral or partisan interests as well as responding to a perceived policy problem (cf. Kingdon 1984). Thus, they not only want to do things (provide child care, increase economic development), but to do things that are politically useful (fortify their local political machine, distribute benefits to political supporters).
It in this light that I evaluate in this paper two of the most significant innovations in collaborative governance arrangements in Europe in the 1990s. The first is the 1993 French reform that created regional–level multi–partite institutions to develop proposals for regional education and training initiatives that aimed to spur private investment in human capital. The second is the institution of territorial pacts as the cornerstone of Italian development policy in the 1990s. The development pacts were to sponsor the participation of local secondary associations and politicians in proposing territorial development plans, with the goal of promoting ongoing cooperation among these actors at the territorial level. These reforms are especially significant because they took place in two unitary states with weak regional governments and weak traditions of corporatist policy–making. They were innovative, at least in form, because they attempted to build institutions of public/private collaboration to provide collective goods at a local level. As such, they simultaneously marked an attempt to break radically with the nature of past policy and with the institutions through which those policies had been designed. These were not equivalent to sectoral neocorporatist policies practiced especially widely in northern Europe (Lehmbruch 1984) both by virtue of the scope of private actors involved and of the delegation of policy autonomy to these actors. In terms of scope, they attempted to involve a wide range of local stakeholders, rather than monopolistic employers and unions. And in terms of policy autonomy, these new instances were empowered not merely to implement policies decided at the center, but to develop their own analyses of local problems and proposed responses to them. They were not merely bodies of decentralized implementation, but of decentralized policy design, with the institutions for designing policy moved away from national politicians and to local actors (among which politicians were just one, if still the primus inter pares).
The actual institutions have, so far, shown themselves to be quite heterogeneous. In this paper, I first summarize their experiences?both their political origins and their successes and failures in fulfilling the institutional mandate delegated to them. After reviewing the major developments in each institutional experiment, I draw parallels between the two ongoing experiments, focusing in particular on the organizational prerequisites for their success and the dilemmas they pose for public actors who would attempt to expand collaborative governance arrangements.
In recent years the German economy has grown sluggishly and created few new jobs. These developments have led observers to question the future viability of a model that in the past seemed able to combine economic growth, competitiveness in export markets, and low social inequality. This volume brings together empirical and comparative research from across the social sciences to examine whether or not Germany's system of skill provision is still capable of meeting the economic and social challenges now facing all the advanced capitalist economies.
At issue is the question of whether or not the celebrated German training system, an essential element of the high-skill, high-wage equilibrium, can continue to provide the skills necessary for German companies to hold their economic niche in a world characterized by increasing trade and financial interdependence. Combining an examination of the competitiveness of the German training system with an analysis of the robustness of the political institutions that support it, this volume seeks to understand the extent to which the German system for imparting craft skills can adjust to changes in the organization of production in the advanced industrial states.