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How Parties of Corporatist-Conservative Welfare States Respond to the International Economy -. A Comparison of Austria & Germany Andrea B. Haupt University of California Santa Barbara. Globalization and Political Parties- Research Questions:.

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how parties of corporatist conservative welfare states respond to the international economy

How Parties of Corporatist-Conservative Welfare States Respond to the International Economy -

A Comparison of

Austria & Germany

Andrea B. Haupt

University of California Santa Barbara

globalization and political parties research questions
Globalization and Political Parties- Research Questions:
  • How does rising international economic openness influence parties’ ideological positioning on economic issues? Do we observe policy convergence? Divergence? Neither? A shift in policy regime?
    • Have social democratic parties embraced neoliberalism in light of systemic economic pressures? Has neoliberalism become their new policy paradigm and is social democracy facing a crisis?
    • Do the neoliberal pressures associated with economic openness allow Christian-democratic and/or mainstream conservative parties to shift further to the right?
  • If parties change their ideological positioning, how does this affect intra-party relations? Inter-party relations?
  • If parties are in government, how does this affect their policy moves?
the effect of globalization on the welfare state conflicting predictions
The Effect of Globalization on the Welfare State: Conflicting Predictions


  • globalization entails a loss of state power over markets because it increase the influence of capital vis-à-vis labor, capital mobility undermines politics of intervention, of redistribution and a large public sector (e.g. Berger 2000; Glyn 2001; Rodrik 1997)



  • Empirical evidence of welfare state expenditure
  • The role of institutions
  • Popular demands for compensation
globalization political parties
Globalization & Political Parties


  • Some believe that the pervasive influence of transnational actors and financial flows undermines parties’ ability to satisfy local interests, which in turn undermines party’s legitimacy (Mair 1995)
  • Partisan-decline thesis: based on the logic of convergence, it will become inconsequential “whether the left or the right wins the election, [as] the constraints of the internationalized economy will oblige either party to follow the same monetary and fiscal policies” (Berger 2000:51).
globalization and social democracy
Globalization and Social Democracy
  • The future of social democracy has sparked especially wide interest in the scholarly community (Callaghan 2003; Garrett 1998; Glyn 2001; Kitschelt 1994; Kuhnle 2000; Ladrech 2000; Lordon 2001; Luther and Müller-Rommel 2002; Mishra 1999; Notermans 2001; Pierson 1995, 1999; Przeworski 1985; Roder 2003; Scharpf 1999, 2001; Schmitt 2002; Thompson 2000 )
  • Electoral dilemma: social democracy caught in a “catch-22:” they must either scale down their commitments, or promise what they are unable to deliver to their electorate (Heywood 2002)
globalization and mainstream rightwing parties
Globalization and Mainstream Rightwing Parties
  • Christian democratic parties have played an important role in the development of the welfare state (Kalyvas 1996). However, their role in welfare state retrenchment or their reaction to globalization has not been explored widely
  • Few theories to explain the behavior of Christian-democratic or mainstream conservative parties to globalization (but see Kaiser and Gehler 2004)
  • Convergence argument: implies that right-wing parties are more static on the left-right ideological spectrum?
partisan decline
Partisan Decline

Is there evidence for convergence?

  • Glyn (2001) finds that in the time period between 1980 and 2000, numerous leftist governments accepted orthodox policies
  • Ladrech finds that following support for European integration, European social democrats were faced with “the loss of a critical area of programmatic distinction and identity from…. right of center parties” (Ladrech 200:4).
  • Huber and Stephens (2001) confirm a decline of partisan political effects, while the economic agenda “is by and large either a defense or retrenchment of the welfare state. Expansion is off the agenda” (2001:6)
  • Przeworski states “the major policy innovation of social democrats was the very idea that capitalist economies can be regulated and the effects of markets can be corrected” (Przworski, 2001, p. 327). Przeworski concludes that “[t]he policy regimes are converging again, this time to the right” (Przeworksi 2001:325).
why convergence might not be as likely as predicted
Why Convergence might not be as Likely as Predicted
  • Social democratic parties have traditionally been more policy-seeking than their conservative parties. Przeworski and Sprague (1986) argue that socialist parties sought to transform society and shape public opinion, which renders them ideologically less flexible than their right-wing parties which typically defend the status quo
  • Organizational ties to unions arguably also contribute to ideological inflexibility, as these ties uphold an association with the working class even when social-democratic parties pursued cross-class electoral strategies (Adams, Haupt, Stoll 2006, forthcoming).
  • public opinion has consistently supported existing national welfare state structures and has arguably become disenchanted with neoliberalism (Przeworksi 2001).
  • **Right-wing parties might have an incentive to shift further right
the hypotheses
The Hypotheses
  • Based on the assumption that parties simultaneously seek votes, office and policies (Müller and Strom 1999) , I argue that neoliberal convergence is not an inevitable outcome of economic openness (Hypothesis 1).
    • First, though leftist parties are pressured to adopt “third ways,” their traditional policy-seeking orientations, their quest to shape public opinion, as well as their organizational links to unions limit their ideological flexibility and their responses to neoliberal pressures (Sub-Hypothesis 1a).
    • By contrast, rightist parties are expected to benefit from economic openness, as market oriented policies complement their economic policy approach. While rightist parties face incentives to move further to the right, they continue to be office seekers and, thus, move to the right only if this move is electorally advantageous (Sub-Hypothesis 1b).
  • Building on hypothesis, I argue that the whether social democratic parties are in government or in opposition should influence the severity of their “electoral dilemma.” Thus, social democratic parties in office should be more responsive to neoliberalism than social democratic parties in opposition (Hypothesis 2).

My analysis of the parties’ economic policy evolution

  • is primarily based on qualitative research (e.g. interviews with policy actors) conducted during field work
  • the study of parties’ programs
  • the extant literature on Austria’s and Germany’s parties
  • data published by the Comparative Manifesto Research Group
austria s vs germany s social democrats
Austria’s vs. Germany’s Social Democrats
  • ‘Alive and well’ vs. ‘divided and in a crisis’
  • both parties embraced neoliberalism – the Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ) temporarily during the 1990s, the German Social Democrats half-heartedly since 1998
  • both parties embraced the market while in government
austria s vs germany s christian democrats
Austria’s vs. Germany’s Christian Democrats
  • ‘alive and well’ vs. in a crisis
  • both parties have oriented themselves toward the market, the Austrian ÖVP to a greater degree than the German CDU
  • the Austrian ÖVP has aggressively pursued welfare state reform while in office since 2000
convergence divergence or neither
Convergence, Divergence or Neither?
  • Austria: divergence/polarization and important break in consensus-oriented politics
  • Germany: no convergence, some polarization. both parties internally divided
the argument
The Argument

Based on a study of Austria’s and Germany’s catch-all parties, I present three central findings:

  • 1. Systemic constraints stemming from the internationalization of the economy have entailed an upsurge of market-oriented policies - however, this has NOT led to neoliberal policy convergence nor is there sufficient evidence to claim that neoliberalism has become dominant policy regime
  • 2. Economic openness entailed increased policy divergence, as economic openness has opened a window of opportunity for conservative parties to pursue market-oriented structural reforms, while social democratic parties remain reluctant to commit to ‘third ways.’ Along with divergence, a rise in both intra-party and inter-party tensions can be observed.
  • 3. The degree of polarization is less if social democratic parties have been in office; lending support to arguments about social democratic parties’ electoral dilemmas

The findings

  • call arguments about neoliberal convergence into question
  • point to the importance of right-wing parties for the globalization research agenda
  • facilitate a better understanding of the policy dynamics underlying ideological change and constancy
remaining questions
Remaining Questions
  • The role of institutions
  • Under what conditions – if at all, will we observe neoliberal convergence?