Re-Forming Capitalism: Institutional Change in the German Political Economy

Introduction: Rhenish capitalism and business history
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After all, capitalists are those who own the profitable resources of their societies.

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In societies with freedom of association, members of the non-capitalist classes are, in principle, able to exert power through collective action. This, however, is a difficult exercise with an uncertain degree of success Streeck It partly explains, for example, why the financial sector has been deregulated globally since the s, and why it has proven difficult to impose new regulation after the crisis of Streeck xxv-xxviii.

Each institutional type is characterised by a relatively stable equilibrium between institutions with complementary functions that allows firms to specialise in specific types of productive activities. As opposed to LMEs, Germany is characterised by strong trade unions, employer associations and collective bargaining institutions.

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Moreover, wages are less dispersed, i. For example, trade union membership and membership of employer associations declined dramatically, as did the coverage of collective work agreements. In order to maintain their international competitiveness, German firms increasingly avoided collective wage agreements, which resulted in growing wage dispersion Streeck ; Instead, these changes can better be explained by taking as a starting point the characteristics of capitalism as a social order.

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This book addresses some of the key issues in the field of comparative political economy and institutional theory: the role of history in institutional analysis, the. Re-Forming Capitalism: Institutional Change in the German Political Economy [ Wolfgang Streeck] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.

Wage compression, which is one of the alleged hallmarks of CME-model, gave rise to growing wage dispersion, partly because employers increasingly sought to circumvent the social obligations that come with collective bargaining. This change in the attitude of employers can be explained by the intensifying degree of international competition in recent decades.

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Christopher Ryan. Article first published online: November 23, ; Issue published: November 1, Book Review: Wolfgang Streeck Re-forming capitalism. Streeek W. This is why the break-up of its "postwar settlement" - its gradual but continuous liberalization over several decades, in parallel with the worldwide advance of neoliberalism - appears to be of general interest.

Thus Capitalism returned even though it has never really gone. Rather than mapping varieties of capitalism across space, Streeck prefers to focus on commonalities of capitalism over time Streeck ; Streeck In his most recent books, he points to social and economic trends which have occurred in all the capitalist democracies of the Western world since the s.

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All these societies have experienced roughly the same sequence of crises over the course of this period. Crises of inflation in the s were followed by crises of public debt in the s, which, in turn, were succeeded by the private debt crisis of Streeck ; Streeck In the process, the institutions that restrained capitalist markets during the Trentes Glorieuses after the Second World War gradually faded away: the position of trade unions has been weakened, welfare states have been retrenched, and financial markets have been become deregulated. His work hinges on the intriguing question why these crises and tendencies occured right across the Western world, and how they relate to each other.

These were also the main questions of my conversation with professor Streeck, which is available as a the podcast see iTunes and Soundcloud.

The Political Economy of Institutional Change

In his latest book, he speculates about the end of capitalism Streeck Unlike orthodox marxists, Streeck does not adhere to the view that capitalism will necessarily be replaced by an allegedly better order. Instead, he expects capitalism to enter into a long period of instability and decay.

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Among these destabilising trends those that feature most prominently are declining economic growth, rising inequality and growing indebtedness, which seem to re-inforce each other in an unfortunate way. For example, the growing inequality, which results from stagnating household incomes, hinders further economic growth, since it impedes aggregate demand. In addition, households seem to compensate for their stagnating real incomes and the decline of the welfare state by taking-up more and more debt, a development which is a potential threat to the stability of the financial system, as the crisis of demonstrated.

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However, Keynes operated during a period in which in the adversaries of capitalism, such as socialist parties and trade unions, were on the rise. Authors such as Martin Wolf, columnist for the Financial Times, have criticised Streeck for being too pessimistic.

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They expect that the rising levels of inequality, the problems of the financial sector and the ensuing social and political conflicts can be managed and remedied with the right set of policies. Indeed, the Keynesian post-war decades demonstrate that it is possible to save capitalism from its own contradictions and imbalances, for example by means of counter-cyclical and redistributive government policies. It must be noted, however, that the adversaries of capitalism, such as socialist parties and trade unions, were on the rise during this period.

These organisations for collective action were essential ingredients for the post-war decades of equality and stability Streeck Today such forces do not seem to be available. Instead, the public discourse is dominated by identity politics and the provocative words and actions of politicians, such as Donald Trump.

In the meantime, urgent issues about the future of capitalism remain unaddressed. Hall, Peter A. Streeck, Wolfgang, E Pluribus Unum? The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. In the classification of the 'Varieties of Capitalism' school, Germany has always been taken as the chief exemplar of a 'European', coordinated market economy.

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Streeck explores to what extent Germany actually conforms to this description. His argument is supported by original empirical research on wage-setting and wage structure, the organization of business and labor in business associations and trade unions, social policy, public finance, and corporate governance. From this evidence, Bringing Capitalism Back In traces the current liberalization of the postwar economy of democratic capitalism by means of an historically-grounded approach to institutional change. This is an important book in comparative political economy and key reading across the social sciences for academics, researchers, and advanced students of Political Economy, Sociology, comparative business systems.

Five Sectoral Trajectories. ReForming Capitalism. Patterns and Causes.