Varieties of Liberalization: Politics of Social Solidarity and Institutional Changes in Labor Market

Varieties of Liberalization Thelenleading political scientist and institutional scholar Kathleen Thelen (MIT) examines in her new excellent book Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity contemporary changes in labor market institutions in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, focusing on developments in three arenas – industrial relations, vocational training, and labor market policy. While confirming a broad, shared liberalizing trend, Thelen finds and points out 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 elegantly 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, Kathleen Thelen skillfully 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, she 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.
(Open access to the book’s first chapter “Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity“)

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