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Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity
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Book description

This book examines contemporary changes in labor market institutions in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, focusing on developments in industrial relations, vocational education and training, and labor market policy. It finds that there are in fact distinct varieties of liberalization associated with very different distributive outcomes. Most scholarship equates liberal capitalism with inequality and coordinated capitalism with higher levels of social solidarity. However, this study explains why the institutions of coordinated capitalism and egalitarian capitalism coincided and complemented one another in the 'Golden Era' of postwar development in the 1950s and 1960s, and why they no longer do so. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, this study reveals that the successful defense of the institutions traditionally associated with coordinated capitalism has often been a recipe for increased inequality due to declining coverage and dualization. Conversely, it argues that some forms of labor market liberalization are perfectly compatible with continued high levels of social solidarity and indeed may be necessary to sustain it.

Reviews

"As union membership and the manufacturing sector have shrunk, the institutions built around them have become the locus of political conflict over inequality and inclusion in the world’s rich countries. Kathleen Thelen elegantly argues that the course of these struggles hinges on the extent to which unions have succeeded in organizing broad parts of the population, and to which states themselves have the capacity and political will to intervene in conflicts over redistribution. Returning the political coalitions identified by Esping-Andersen to the heart of institutionalist political economy, Thelen’s book is a trenchant statement of the ongoing struggles that lie behind the apparent stability in models of capitalism."
Pepper D. Culpepper, European University Institute

"In this remarkable book, Kathleen Thelen makes sense of the striking diversity of national paths of adjustment to a rapidly changing economic environment. Drawing skillfully on decades of research but wonderfully fresh and innovative in its formulations, this is comparative politics at its very best."
Paul Pierson, John Gross Endowed Chair, University of California, Berkeley

"Carefully researched and tightly argued, this exemplary book illustrates the enduring potential of comparative case studies as a source of theoretical insights. Thelen persuasively takes us beyond the current stale and unsatisfying debate on varieties of capitalism by disentangling "coordinated capitalism" and "egalitarian capitalism" and by identifying multiple trajectories of liberalization."
Jonas H. Pontusson, Université de Genève

"Thelen examines three aspects of labor markets - wage bargaining, education and training policy, and labor market policy - focusing on the cases of the United States, Germany and Denmark. She argues convincingly that though global and postindustrial change brought liberalizing pressures to all countries, they produced straightforward liberalization only in the United States, with Germany moving toward dualization and Denmark continuing the Nordic pattern of egalitarian capitalism. Thelen again produces a major breakthrough in our understanding of the processes of change in contemporary capitalism; the book represents the finest in comparative historical political economy."
John D. Stephens, Gerhard E. Lenski, Jr, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, University of North Carolina

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