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The art of the almost impossible: three essays on the political economy of structural reforms in Europe

Freier, Maximilian (2012) The art of the almost impossible: three essays on the political economy of structural reforms in Europe. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

The Introduction – together with the conclusion – provides a framework for the three substantial contributions of this PhD project. It begins with sketching a puzzle that motivates research on the political economy of structural reforms in Europe, namely the inconsistency between the commitment of governments to reform and the actual reform track record across the countries. It discusses the nature and findings of the relevant multidisciplinary political economy literature. Paper One addresses the puzzle why the first major post-war overhaul of the German political economy – the ‘Agenda 2010’ reforms – was undertaken in 2003 by a social-democratic government and not by any of the conservative governments that preceded it. It finds that the lack of government cohesion, the federal legislative system and corporatist structures remain important determinants for institutional stability and change in Germany. Paper Two develops a theoretical argument as to why corporatist European economies may live through extended periods of economic underperformance without significant reform. Building on this argument, it presents a formal model, from which it derives a set of determinants for structural reforms, and finally illustrates these by exploring the causes for reform in Germany and Sweden. Paper Three uses a new database on labour market reform to show that corporatist structures have an intermediating effect on the determinants of structural reform policies. It finds evidence that the interests of employer organisations and trade unions matter for the labour market reform trajectories in countries with corporatist features. Political partisanship and economic crises matter more in pluralist countries. Finally, the Conclusion summarises the findings of the three papers. Subsequently, it outlines the limitations and draws up some wider implications for the theories of institutional change and for public policymaking.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Maximilian A. Freier
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/749

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