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The Malleable Politics of Activation Reform: the ‘Hartz’ Reforms in Comparative Perspective

Boyle, Nigel (2009) The Malleable Politics of Activation Reform: the ‘Hartz’ Reforms in Comparative Perspective. In: UNSPECIFIED.

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    In this paper we compare the Hartz reforms in Germany with three other major labor market activation reforms carried out by center-left governments. Two of the cases, Britain and Germany, involved radically neoliberal “mandatory” activation policies, whereas in the Netherlands and Ireland radical activation change took a very different “enabling” form. Two of the cases, Ireland and Germany, were path deviant, Britain and the Netherlands were path dependent. We explain why Germany underwent “mandatory” and path deviant activation by focusing on two features of the policy discourse. First, the coordinative (or elite level) discourse was “ensilaged” sealing policy formation off from dissenting actors and, until belatedly unwrapped for enactment, from the wider communicative (legitimating) discourse. This is what the British and German cases had in common and the result was reform that viewed long term unemployment as personal failure rather than market failure. Second, although the German policy-making system lacked the “authoritative” features that facilitated reform in the British case, and the Irish policymaking system lacked the “reflexive” mechanisms that facilitated reform in the Dutch case, in both Germany and Ireland the communicative discourses were reshaped by novel institutional vehicles (the Hartz Commission in the German case, FÁS in the Irish case) that served to fundamentally alter systemconstitutive perceptions about policy. In the Irish and German cases “government by commission” created a realignment of advocacy coalitions with one coalition acquiring a new, ideologically-dominant and path deviating narrative. The findings suggest that major reform of labor market and welfare state policy may be much more malleable than previously thought.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Subjects for non-EU documents: Countries > Germany
    Countries > Ireland
    Countries > Netherlands
    Countries > U.K.
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > employment/labour market > employment/unemployment
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > employment/labour market > labour/labor
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2009 (11th), April 23-25, 2009
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2013 17:28
    Number of Pages: 47
    Last Modified: 08 Jan 2013 17:28

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