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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: July 2010



This last step in the development of the theoretical model of this book links the structural variables to policy outputs, that is, to the actual reform capacity of different countries. It deals with the mechanisms translating patterns of socio-structural conflict into policy change. Socio-structural reform potentials do not translate directly into policy outputs. Rather, they are mediated by politics. Politics in democratic contexts consist in the construction of viable majorities – or coalitions working for or against change. When and how such majorities are forged depends on two factors, which are not inherent in the configuration of preferences discussed in the previous chapter. First, the building of majorities depends on the strategies of policy entrepreneurs, mostly governments. Strategy involves setting the reform agenda in a way that guides the relevant actors in a particular direction – a practice I refer to as coalitional engineering. Most typically, this maneuvering involves actors' attempts to mobilize certain issues while keeping other topics away from the debates. Second, the effectiveness of these strategies depends on the behavioral and institutional opportunity structure the government is confronted with. In other words, the success of coalitional engineering depends on the willingness of political parties, trade unions, and employers' associations to join reform coalitions (i.e., it depends on their coalitional flexibility) and on the ability of governments to impose reforms against those opponents who are unwilling to join this coalition (i.e., on the presence or absence of veto players.