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1 - Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2021

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Summary

Changing capitalism is a topic that has been discussed, with increasing intensity, in the context of the debate following the publication of Peter Hall's and David Soskice's Varieties of Capitalism (2001). Empirically, this discussion and related comparative research have concentrated on the bigger political economies of the United States, Japan and Germany, with some attention for Britain, France and Italy. Smaller countries have largely been ignored. This volume would like to shed some light on a group of smaller European countries, all of which reveal a high degree (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland) or even a very high degree (Austria, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden) of corporatism, as is shown in Table From here on, I will call them the sample countries.

These countries are of special interest because most of them have been praised as models in recent years – as an alternative to the strongly liberal route as exemplified by the US. It is intriguing, therefore, to learn what politico-economic change has meant to these countries. Have they moved in the liberal direction and if so, to what extent? Or have divergent developments occurred? What happened with their welfare systems, corporate governance, labour market legislation and industrial relations in the one and a half decades preceding the sharp downturn of the world economy in 2008? Subsequent chapters will investigate these questions and also pay separate attention to how they have reacted to the process of Europeanisation. The concluding chapter delves into the question whether corporatist capitalism is a viable candidate for a European socio-economic model, with the sample countries (or at least some of them) as examples.

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the institutional changes that have taken place since the early 1990s. It puts the sample countries into broader comparative perspective (with attention for the bigger EU countries, the Anglo-Saxon world outside Europe, and Japan) and identifies a number of forces that triggered the recent changes. It is also, however, a contribution to the discussion on the appropriate mapping of capitalist varieties. This is important because we need a kind of typology that is suitable for the analysis of institutional change and for specifying the identification of the direction of change. From where to where do empirical varieties move?

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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