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 MPIfG Books



Alexandre Afonso
Social Concertation in Times of Austerity
European Integration and the Politics of Labour Market Reforms in Austria and Switzerland

Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013
258 pages | 37,95 Euro
ISBN 978-90-8964-395-7
E-ISBN 978-90-4851-299-7 (PDF)
E-ISBN 978-90-4851-562-2 (EPUB)
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Abstract | Contents | Author | Reviews




Why do governments sometimes negotiate with trade unions and employers about labor market and welfare state reforms, while at other times they do not? Does European integration undermine these patterns of "social concertation"? Social Concertation in Times of Austerity investigates the political underpinnings of social concertation with a focus on the regulation of labor mobility and unemployment protection in Austria and Switzerland, as well as empirical examples from many other European countries. It shows that the involvement of trade unions and employers in policymaking is a strategy of compromise-building used by governments to insulate policies from electoral dynamics when they are faced with partisan divisions, or to pre-empt mass protest when unpopular reforms are likely to have risky electoral consequences.



1  The Strange Survival of Social Concertation in Times of Austerity
    1 The Puzzle
    2 The Argument in Brief
    3 Outline of the Book

2  Social Concertation as a Political Strategy
    1 Gone with the Wind? The Transformations of Corporatism in Europe
    2 Describing and Explaining Social Concertation
    3 A Theory of Political Choice for Social Concertation
    4 Summary
3  European Integration, Domestic Politics and Social Concertation
    1 Internationalisation and Social Concertation: A Prelude
    2 The Dynamic of Supranational Market-Making in the EU
    3 The Contested Impact of European Integration on Social Concertation
    4 European Integration and the Politics of Social Concertation
    5 Summary
4  Methods and Cases
    1 Measuring Social Concertation
    2 Explaining Social Concertation: Process-Tracing
    3 Explaining Social Concertation: Comparing Cases
    4 Strategies of Data Collection
    5 Summary
5  The Context of Social Concertation in Switzerland and Austria
    1 Switzerland: Veto Points, Right-Wing Dominance and the Emergence of the Swiss People's Party
    2 Austria: Corporatism and the Exhaustion of "Proporz"
    3 Summary
6  Social Concertation and Cross-Border Labour Mobility
    1 Cross-Border Labour Mobility and EU Enlargement
    2 Austria: Cross-Class Consensus Under a Common Threat
    3 Switzerland: The Strong Weapons of the Weak
    4 Summary
7  Social Concertation and Unemployment Policy Reforms
    1 The Politics of Unemployment Policy
    2 Austria: The Limits of Unilateral Policymaking
    3 Switzerland: Welfare State Retrenchment and the Radical Right-Wing Push
    4 Summary
8  Synthesis and Comparative Outlook
    1 Assessing Explanatory Variables
    2 Limitations and Comparative Evidence
    3 Conclusion: Securing Consent in Times of Austerity




Alexandre Afonso is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at King's College London. He has held research fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne and the European University Institute in Florence, and he has been a visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Amsterdam. He earned his PhD in Politics at the University of Lausanne.



"Afonso's interesting comparison of labor mobility (an EU issue) and unemployment policy (a domestic issue) sheds light on why governments sometimes fall back on corporatist institutions, even in the current economic climate. And that reason is, in a word, political: because governments need the cover of such bargaining when they face electoral risks."
Prof. Pepper Culpepper, European University Institute, Florence

"Not so long ago social concertation arrangements were considered an industrial relations phenomenon which was functionally linked either to the institutional endowment of particular countries or to the problem load they faced. Through an analysis of labor market reforms in Austria and Switzerland, Afonso’s book shows that social concertation is an eminently political phenomenon. In so doing this interesting book contributes to move comparative political economy research away from rationalistic accounts of optimal designs and to bring it closer to an historically-contingent and actor-centered reconstruction of institutional trajectories."
Prof. Lucio Baccaro, University of Geneva

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