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From Corporatism to Partisan Politics. Social Policy Making under Strain in Switzerland


Häusermann, S; Mach, A; Papadopoulos, Y (2004). From Corporatism to Partisan Politics. Social Policy Making under Strain in Switzerland. Swiss Political Science Review, 10(2):33-59.

Abstract

The literature on neo-corporatist agreements in social and labor market policy in the 1990s points to a decline of concertation in European countries with a long-standing tradition of corporatist negotiation. This article identifies a similar trend in Switzerland and argues that three destabilizing factors account for it: 1) retrenchment pressure and ideological polarization prevent compromises; 2) the emergence of new social demands and interests challenges the homogeneity and legitimacy of peak organizations and thus their bargaining power; 3) increasing media coverage tends to open up the traditionally confidential and selective sphere of corporatist negotiation and weakens the social partners’ ability to reach agreements. The impact of these factors on neo-corporatist bargaining is tested in Switzerland, a case where corporatist negotiations used to be particularly decisive in social policy making. Empirical evidence comes from a cross-time comparison of two major social policies: Unemployment insurance and pension reforms in the 1970s and in the 1990s. In the last decade, the main locus of decision-making shifted from the sphere of interest groups to partisan politics. In parliament, the political parties were able to draft bills enjoying wide acceptance thanks to compensations offered to groups particularly vulnerable to new social risks.

The literature on neo-corporatist agreements in social and labor market policy in the 1990s points to a decline of concertation in European countries with a long-standing tradition of corporatist negotiation. This article identifies a similar trend in Switzerland and argues that three destabilizing factors account for it: 1) retrenchment pressure and ideological polarization prevent compromises; 2) the emergence of new social demands and interests challenges the homogeneity and legitimacy of peak organizations and thus their bargaining power; 3) increasing media coverage tends to open up the traditionally confidential and selective sphere of corporatist negotiation and weakens the social partners’ ability to reach agreements. The impact of these factors on neo-corporatist bargaining is tested in Switzerland, a case where corporatist negotiations used to be particularly decisive in social policy making. Empirical evidence comes from a cross-time comparison of two major social policies: Unemployment insurance and pension reforms in the 1970s and in the 1990s. In the last decade, the main locus of decision-making shifted from the sphere of interest groups to partisan politics. In parliament, the political parties were able to draft bills enjoying wide acceptance thanks to compensations offered to groups particularly vulnerable to new social risks.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Language:English
Date:2004
Deposited On:24 Mar 2009 12:18
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:28
Publisher:Swiss Political Science Association
ISSN:1424-7755
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-3982

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