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Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Political Economy: An Empirical Analysis


This article provides a statistical analysis of core contentions of the ‘varieties of capitalism’ perspective on comparative capitalism. The authors construct indices to assess whether patterns of co-ordination in the OECD economies conform to the predictions of the theory and compare the correspondence of institutions across subspheres of the political economy. They test whether institutional complementarities occur across these subspheres by estimating the impact of complementarities in labour relations and corporate governance on growth rates. To assess the durability of varieties of capitalism, they report on the extent of institutional change in the 1980s and 1990s. Powerful interaction effects across institutions in the subspheres of the political economy must be considered if assessments of the economic impact of institutional reform in any one sphere are to be accurate.

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1 Andrew Shonfield, Modern Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969); Chalmers Johnson, MITI and the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy 1925–75 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1982).

2 Fritz Scharpf, Crisis and Choice in European Social Democracy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Peter J. Katzenstein, Small States in World Markets (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985); Lars Calmfors and John Driffill, ‘Centralization of Wage Bargaining’, Economic Policy, 6 (1988), 13–61; David Cameron, ‘Social Democracy, Corporatism, Labour Quiescence and the Representation of Economic Interest in Advanced Capitalist Society’, in John H. Goldthorpe, ed., Order and Conflict in Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), pp. 143–78.

3 Bruno Amable, The Diversity of Modern Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Vivien Schmidt, The Futures of European Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Colin Crouch and Wolfgang Streeck, eds, The Political Economy of Modern Capitalism: Mapping Convergence and Diversity (London: Sage, 1997); Suzanne Berger and Ronald Dore, eds, National Diversity and Global Capitalism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996); Michel Albert, Capitalism Against Capitalism (London: Whurr, 1992).

4 Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Bob Hancké, Martin Rhodes and Mark Thatcher, eds, Beyond Varieties of Capitalism: Conflict, Contradiction and Complementarities in the European Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); John L. Campbell, John A. Hall and Ove K. Pedersen, National Identity and the Varieties of Capitalism: The Danish Experience (Montreal: McGill University Press, 2006); David Rueda and Jonas Pontusson, ‘Wage Inequality and Varieties of Capitalism’, World Politics, 52 (2000), 350–83; Herbert Kitschelt, Peter Lange, Gary Marks and John Stephens, eds, Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

5 For efforts to look at some of its propositions, see Mark Zachary Taylor, ‘Empirical Evidence Against Variety of Capitalism’s Theory of Technological Innovation’, International Organization, 58 (2004), 601–31; Lane Kenworthy, ‘Institutional Coherence and Macroeconomic Performance’, Socio-Economic Review, 4 (2006), 69–91; Matthew Allen, Lothar Funk and Heinz Tüselman, ‘Can Variation in Public Policies Account for Differences in Comparative Advantage?’ Journal of Public Policy, 26 (2006), 1–19.

6 R. Jaikumar, ‘Postindustrial Manufacturing’, Harvard Business Review, November–December (1986), 69–76; Paul Milgrom and John Roberts, ‘The Economics of Modern Manufacturing, Technology, Strategy and Organization’, American Economic Review, 80 (1990), 511–28; Paul Milgrom and John Roberts, Economics, Organization, and Management (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1992).

7 See also Masahiko Aoki, ‘The Japanese Firm as a System of Attributes: A Survey and Research Agenda’, in Masahiko Aoki and Ronald Dore, eds, The Japanese Firm: Sources of Competitive Strength (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 11–40; Martin Höpner, ‘What Connects Industrial Relations and Corporate Governance? Explaining Institutional Complementarity’, Socio-Economic Review, 3 (2005), 331–58; Glenn Morgan, Richard Whitley and Eli Moen, eds, Changing Capitalisms? Internationalization, Institutional Change and Systems of Economic Organization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

8 Stephen Nickell, ‘Unemployment and Labour Market Rigidities, Europe versus North America’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 11 (1997), 55–74; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD Jobs Study: Evidence and Explanations; Part II, The Adjustment Potential of the Labour Market (Paris: OECD, 1994); Calmfors and Driffill, ‘Centralization of Wage Bargaining’; Wendy Carlin and Colin Mayer, ‘How Do Financial Systems Affect Economic Performance?’, in Xavier Vives, ed., Corporate Governance: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives (New York, Cambridge University Press 2000), pp. 137–68; Rafael LaPorta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Schleifer and Robert W. Vishny, ‘Law and Finance’, Journal of Political Economy, 106 (1998), 1113–55.

9 Robert J. Franzese Jr, Macroeconomic Policies of Developed Democracies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Bruno Amable, Ekkehard Ernst and Stefano Palombarini, ‘How Do Financial Markets Affect Industrial Relations: An Institutional Complementarity Approach’, Socio-Economic Review, 3 (2005), 311–30; Ekkehard Ernst, ‘Financial Systems, Industrial Relations, and Industry Specialization: An Econometric Analysis of Institutional Complementarities’, in H. Schubert, ed., The Transformation of the European Financial System (Frankfurt: European Central Bank, 2003), pp. 60–95; Torben Iversen, ‘Wage Bargaining, Central Bank Independence and the Real Effects of Money’, International Organization, 3 (1998), 469–504; Peter A. Hall and Robert J. Franzese Jr, ‘Mixed Signals: Central Bank Independence, Coordinated Wage Bargaining, and European Monetary Union’, International Organization, 3 (1998), 505–35; Michel Goyer, ‘Capital Mobility, Varieties of Institutional Investors and the Transforming Stability of Corporate Governance in France and Germany’, in Hancké, Rhodes and Thatcher, eds, Beyond Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 195–222.

10 This approach originates in the early work of David Soskice and the account given of it here draws extensively on joint work with him. See David Soskice, ‘Reinterpreting Corporatism and Explaining Unemployment, Coordinated and Non-coordinated Market Economies’, in R. Brunetta and C. Dell'Aringa, eds, Labour Relations and Economic Performance (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 170–214; David Soskice, ‘The Institutional Infrastructure for International Competitiveness: A Comparative Analysis of the UK and Germany’, in A. B. Atkinson and R. Brunetta, eds, The Economics of the New Europe (London: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 45–66.

11 This list of the institutional correlates of effective strategic co-ordination is a familiar one that draws on the conventional literature plus the presence of a capacity for deliberation whose importance is outlined in Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’. See Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

12 The approach concentrates on cross-national variation because it examines spheres where national regulations and nationally-specific institutions are especially important, but it acknowledges there can be additional variation across specific regions or sectors. See John L. Campbell, Rogers Hollingsworth and Leon Lindberg, Governance of the American Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and Gary Herrigel, Industrial Constructions: The Sources of German Industrial Power (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

13 Of course, the distinction between institutions and co-ordination is a narrow one, especially if co-ordination is construed as rule-patterned behaviour. Here, institutions are defined as rules and practices, more or less formal, that actors take into account when making decisions about what actions to undertake. These include the institutions generated by the organizational setting. See Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’, p. 9; Randall Calvert, ‘The Rational Choice Theory of Social Institutions: Cooperation, Coordination and Communication’, in J. Banks and E. Hanushek, eds, Modern Political Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 216–67.

14 Kenneth A. Bollen, Structural Equations with Latent Variables (New York: Wiley, 1989).

15 Further details of the derivation and definition of these measures can be found in the original sources.

16 LaPorta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Schleifer and Vishny, ‘Law and Finance’, p. 1130.

17 Rafael LaPorta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes and Andrei Schleifer, ‘Corporate Ownership Around the World’, Journal of Finance, 54 (1999), 471–517, Table II, Panel B.

18 See OECD website at

19 Richard Layard, Stephen Nickell and Richard Jackman, Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 52.

20 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Employment Outlook (June 1997), p. 71.

21 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Employment Outlook (June 1997), p. 138. The value for New Zealand on this variable is estimated using a multiple imputation technique.

22 The path diagram reflects the following assumptions. First, we assume that the covariance among our observed variables is a function of the presence of two latent (unobservable) variables: the balance between market-based and strategic co-ordination in the sphere of corporate governance and in the sphere of labour relations. Secondly, we assume that each latent variable is linearly related to the corresponding observable variables within its particular sphere of the economy. Co-ordination in one sphere of the economy does not exert a direct linear effect on the level of the observable variables found in the other sphere of the economy. Thirdly, we assume that our two latent variables are correlated: given the presence of institutional complementarities, we would expect countries characterized by high levels of one type of co-ordination in one sphere to have high levels of co-ordination in the other sphere. Thus, the empirical model reflects our theoretical belief that variation in the observable variables found in one sphere of the economy is related to the level of co-ordination found in the other sphere of the economy only by way of the correlation between the levels of co-ordination in the two spheres, which in turn is a function of the presence of institutional complementarities. Our final assumption is that measurement error across our observable variables is uncorrelated.

23 The estimated correlation is negative because the latent factor driving the covariance between the corporate governance indicators is the degree of strategic co-ordination whereas the latent factor driving the covariance between the labour relations indicators is the degree of market co-ordination (i.e. strategic co-ordination in reverse).

24 Paul Windolf, Corporate Networks in Europe and the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); Mark J. Roe, ‘Political Preconditions to Separating Ownership from Corporate Control’, Stanford Law Review, 53 (2000), 539–605.

25 Schmidt, The Futures of European Capitalism; Amable, The Diversity of Modern Capitalism; Hall and Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism, Martin Rhodes ‘Globalisation, Labour Markets and Welfare States: A Future of “Competitive Corporatism”?’, in Martin Rhodes and Yves Meny, eds, The Future of European Welfare (London: Macmillan, 1997), pp. 178–203.

26 The varieties-of-capitalism literature acknowledges that such differences may exist. Those between the ‘industry-coordinated’ economies of northern Europe and ‘group-coordinated’ economies of Asia have been elaborated most fully. See David Soskice, ‘National Patterns in Company Innovation Strategies: A Comparative Institutional Approach’ (unpublished paper, Wissenschaftszentrum, Berlin, 1996).

27 Note that our concern here is simply to assess whether the institutional patterns that the varieties-of-capitalism approach expects to find across nations actually occur and not to assess explanations for why these institutional patterns arise. Many causal processes may underlie such patterns and our analysis is not meant to imply that they arise for any specific set of functional reasons.

28 David Finegold and David Soskice, ‘The Failure of Training in Britain: Analysis and Prescription’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 4 (1988), 21–53; Pepper Culpepper, Creating Cooperation: How States Develop Human Capital in Europe (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003).

29 Steven Casper, ‘High Technology Governance and Institutional Adpativeness’ (Discussion Paper 99-307, Wissenschaftszentrum, Berlin, 1999); Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, ‘An Introduction to Varieties of Capitalism’, in Hall and Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 1–70.

30 Margarita Estevez-Abe, Torben Iversen and David Soskice, ‘Social Protection and Skill Formation: A Reinterpretation of the Welfare State’, in Hall and Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 145–83; cf. Isabela Mares, ‘Firms and the Welfare State: When and How does Social Policy Matter to Employers?’, in Hall and Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 184–212.

31 See also David Soskice, ‘Divergent Production Regimes, Coordinated and Uncoordinated Market Economies in the 1990s’, in Herbert Kitschelt, Peter Lange, Gary Marks and John D. Stephens, eds, Continuity and Change in Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 101–34.

32 Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’; and Mark Lehrer, ‘From Macro-Varieties of Capitalism to Micro-Varieties of Firm Strategy: Applying Comparative Institutional Analysis to Strategic Management’, in Hall and Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 361–86.

33 Note that the sample sizes vary for some of these measures.

34 Estevez-Abe et al. ‘Social Protection and Skill Formation’.

35 Giuseppe Nicoletti, Stefano Scarpetta and Olivier Boylaud, ‘Summary Indicators of Product Market Regulation with an Extension to Employment Protection Legislation’ (OECD, Economics Department Working Papers No. 226), p. 80.

36 OECD on-line education database (; OECD, Literacy in the Information Age (Paris: OECD, 2000), p. 159.

37 Marco Pagano and Paolo Volpin, ‘The Political Economy of Corporate Governance’ (Centro Stude in Economia e Finanza, Departimento di Scienze Economiche, Universitya degli Studi di Salerno, Working Paper No. 29, 2000), Table 4.

38 Economic Policy Institute, The State of Working America 200001 (Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, 2000).

39 OECD, Employment Outlook (June 1997), p. 138.

40 This measure uses the average 1960–89 scores for a factor that Hicks and Kenworthy label ‘firm-level co-operation’, which includes some further variables assigned low weights that we do not enumerate here; Alexander Hicks and Lane Kenworthy, ‘Cooperation and Political Economic Performance in Affluent Democratic Capitalism’, American Journal of Sociology, 103 (1998), 1631–72, p. 1649.

41 Masahiko Aoki, ‘Toward an Economic Model of the Japanese Firm’, Journal of Economic Literature, 28 (1990), 1–27; Aoki, ‘The Japanese Firm as a System of Attributes’; Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’.

42 When we say that one institutional practice enhances the efficiency of another, this means that its presence increases the returns available from using the other institutional practice.

43 The terms ‘market’ and ‘strategic’ co-ordination refer to broad patterns of firm behaviour that tend to be altered only by large-scale institutional changes: no one has suggested that any measure to introduce some competition into one of these spheres necessarily impairs strategic co-ordination in the other. Similarly, although these institutions also have distributive effects that increase the returns to particular actors, following the varieties of capitalism literature, we focus here on returns to the economy as a whole of the sort reflected in aggregate economic performance.

44 Lane Kenworthy, ‘Wage Setting Coordination Scores. 2001’. Available at

45 The countries included in the estimations consist of all those for which it was possible to calculate the co-ordination indices. See Table 2 for the complete list.

46 Nathaniel Beck and Jonathan Katz, ‘What to Do (And Not to Do) with Time-Series Cross-Section Data’, American Political Science Review, 89 (1995), 634–48.

47 One of the more common approaches to statistical analysis with panel data, namely, fixed effects regression, was unavailable to us as a result of the time-invariant nature of our co-ordination indices.

48 T. Persson and G. Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003).

49 As a summary measure of variation over time, we calculated the percentage of years in which a country’s wage co-ordination score was less than or equal to 1 point from its modal score during the 1971–97 period. For all countries except for Denmark, Italy and New Zealand, this was greater than 70 per cent.

50 Susanne Soederberg, Georg Menz and Philip G. Cerny, eds, Internalizing Globalization: The Rise of Neo-Liberalism and the Decline of National Varieties of Capitalism (Houndsmills, Hants.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Jürgen Beyer and Martin Höpner, ‘The Disintegration of Organised Capitalism: German Corporate Governance in the 1990s’, West European Politics, 26 (2003), 179–198; Berger and Dore, eds, National Diversity and Global Capitalism; cf. Peter A. Hall, ‘The Evolution of Varieties of Capitalism in Europe’, in Hancké, Rhodes and Thatcher, eds, Beyond Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 39–88.

51 Hall and Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism.

52 Peter A. Hall, ‘The Political Economy of Adjustment in Germany’, in Frieder Naschold, David Soskice, Bob Hancke and Ulrich Jurgens, eds, Okonomische Leitstungsfahigkeit und Institutionelle Innovation (Berlin: Sigma, 1997), pp. 293–317; Peter A. Hall, ‘The Political Economy of Europe in an Era of Interdependence’, in Kitschelt et al., eds, Change and Continuity in Contemporary Capitalism, pp. 135–63.

53 Torben Iversen and Anne Wren, ‘Equality, Employment and Budgetary Restraint’, World Politics, 50 (1998), 507–46; Viven Schmidt and Fritz Scharpf, Welfare and Work in the Open Economy: From Vulnerability to Competitiveness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

54 Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’; Hall, ‘The Political Economy of Adjustment in Germany’; David Soskice, ‘Innovation Strategies of Companies, A Comparative Institutional Analysis of some Cross-Country Differences’, in W. a M. D. Zapf, ed., Institutionenvergliech und Institutionendynamik (Berlin: WZB, 1994), pp. 271–89. On this point, our thinking has been influenced by conversations with Robert Fannion and Gavyn Davies.

55 Jeffry A. Frieden and Ronald Rogowski, ‘The Impact of the International Economy on National Policies: An Analytical Overview’, in Robert Keohane and Helen Milner, eds, Internationalization and Domestic Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 25–47.

56 Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’; and Torben Iversen and David Soskice, ‘An Asset Theory of Social Policy Preferences’, American Political Science Review, 95 (2001), 875–93.

57 Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964).

58 Michael J. Hiscox, ‘Class versus Industry Cleavages: Inter-Industry Factor Mobility and the Politics of Trade’, International Organization, 55 (2001), 1–46; Frieden and Rogowski, ‘The Impact of the International Economy on National Policies’; James Alt, Jeffry Frieden, Michael Gilligan, Dani Rodrik and Ronald Rogowski, ‘The Political Economy of International Trade: Enduring Puzzles and an Agenda for Inquiry’, Comparative Political Studies, 29 (1996), 689–717.

59 Peter Swenson, ‘Bringing Capital Back In, or Social Democracy Reconsidered: Employer Power, Cross-Class Alliances and Centralization of Industrial Relations in Denmark and Sweden’, World Politics, 43 (1991), 513–44; Kathleen Thelen and Ikuo Kume, ‘The Effects of Globalization on Labour Revisited: Lessons from Germany and Japan’, Politics and Society, 27 (1999), 477–505; Stewart Wood, ‘Employer Preferences, State Power and Labour Market Policy in Germany and Britain’, in Hall and Soskice, eds, Varieties of Capitalism, pp. 247–74.

60 Hall, ‘The Evolution of Varieties of Capitalism in Europe’.

61 For the empirical analysis in this section of the article, we adopt the classification of political economies that Hall and Soskice use, terming those that they do not classify definitively as liberal or co-ordinated market economies, mixed market economies. Portugal, Spain, France and Italy are in the latter category. See Hall and Soskice, ‘Introduction’.

62 As labelled here, mixed market economies include those that fall clearly below the regression line on the right-hand side of Figure 2, i.e. Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.

63 However, some of these entitlements are being gradually reduced again. See Elmar Rieger and Stephan Leibfried, Limits to Globalization: Welfare States and the World Economy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003).

64 Amable et al., ‘How Do Financial Markets Affect Industrial Relations?’; Ernst, ‘Financial Systems, Industrial Relations, and Industry Specialization’; Nicoletti, Scarpetta and Boylaud, ‘Summary Indicators of Product Market Regulation with an Extension to Employment Protection Legislation’; LaPorta et al., ‘Law and Finance’; Lane Kenworthy, In Search of National Economic Success (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1995).

* Department of Government, Harvard University and Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia (email: The authors wish to record their gratitude to Alexander Kuo and Stanislav Markus for efficient research assistance and to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a grant to Hall for research and writing. For helpful comments, they wish to thank James Alt, Bruno Amable, Moreno Bertoldi, Robert Boyer, Colin Crouch, Ekkehard Ernst, Peter Gourevitch, Torben Iversen, Bruce Kogut, Jonas Pontusson, Marino Regini, David Soskice and Wolfgang Streeck.

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British Journal of Political Science
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