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  • Author: Thomas Paster
  • Publication Date: 03-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: What is the impact of business interest groups on the formulation of public social policies? This paper reviews the literature in political science, history, and sociology on this question. It identifies two strands: one analyzes the political power and influence of business, the other the preferences and interests of business. Since the 1990s, researchers have shifted their attention from questions of power to questions of preferences. While this shift has produced important insights into the sources of the policy preferences of business, it came with a neglect of issues of power. This paper takes a first step towards re-integrating a power-analytical perspective into the study of the role of business in welfare state politics. It shows how a focus on variation in business power can help to explain both why business interest groups accepted social protection during some periods in the past and why they have become increasingly assertive and averse to social policies since the 1970s.
  • Topic: Human Welfare, Politics, History, Sociology, Landpower, Business
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Wolfgang Streeck
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: The rise of the consolidation state follows the displacement of the classical tax state, or Steuerstaat, by what I have called the debt state, a process that began in the 1980s in all rich capitalist democracies. Consolidation is the contemporary response to the “fiscal crisis of the state” envisaged as early as the late 1960s, when postwar growth had come to an end. Both the long-term increase in public debt and the current global attempts to bring it under control were intertwined with the “financialization” of advanced capitalism and its complex functions and dysfunctions. The ongoing shift towards a consolidation state involves a deep rebuilding of the political institutions of postwar democratic capitalism and its international order. This is the case in particular in Europe where consolidation coincides with an unprecedented increase in the scale of political rule under European Monetary Union and with the transformation of the latter into an asymmetric fiscal stabilization regime. The paper focuses on the developing structure of the new consolidation regime and its consequences for the relationship between capitalism and democracy.
  • Topic: Debt, Monetary Policy, Democracy, Capitalism, Financial Markets
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Stefan Svallfors
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: As Hacker and Pierson (2010) have observed, politics is primarily organization: “organized combat.” To understand the outcomes of politics, we have to look at how it is organized over time: by whom and with what resources? I take Sweden as an example of how politics as organized combat has changed quite dramatically in recent decades. Sweden is often cited as an opposite to the United States among the rich capitalist countries, but it has experienced many encompassing policy changes which have not received the attention they deserve. The paper specifies how Swedish organized politics has changed fundamentally, including the dismantling of corporatist arrangements, changes in the economic policy decision-making framework, increased income inequality, weakened political parties and changes in their social bases, the decline of blue-collar union strength, the growth of the policy professionals category, the increased impact of multilevel politics, and the mediatization of politics. Today’s amorphous, invisible mode of elite-driven policy-making diverges greatly from the old corporatist structures and is accompanied by dramatically increasing inequality. Even in Sweden, the impact of money on politics has become stronger. The paper discusses what this implies for current politics and policy-making in Sweden.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Sweden, United States of America
  • Author: Barbara Fulda
  • Publication Date: 05-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: How can we understand subnational differences in fertility rates? The most common explanations see the key to these differences in the socio-structural composition of a region’s population and its structural conditions. However, such explanations fail to account for fertility rate differences in regions with similar populations and structures. This paper analyzes two social milieus in southern Germany and argues that variations in their fertility rates can only be understood through their cultural differences. Family extension patterns as well as opportunity structures (such as the availability of childcare facilities) are substantially influenced by the regionally differing cultural norms formed and held by social milieu members. To better explain differences in fertility rates and to understand the regionally differing effects of family policy measures, demographic research therefore needs to include culture in its understanding of demographic behavior.
  • Topic: Demographics, Sociology, Culture, Children, Research
  • Political Geography: Germany, Global Focus
  • Author: Sarah Hearn, Alejandra Kubitschek Bujones, Alischa Kugel
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: There is a broad agreement that the United Nations’ “Peacebuilding Architecture” (PBA) has failed to live up to the high hopes that existed when the 2005 World Summit agreed to establish the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and its related entities, the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). This paper explores why this is the case. We briefly review the initial logic and expectations of the PBA in part 1, and sketch out the factors that have affected the PBA’s impact both positively and negatively in part 2. We also think it is important to understand the PBA in the context of the evolution and expansion of wider UN peacebuilding efforts, and further detail the existing relationships with UN peace operations in part 3.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, United Nations, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael A. McCarthy
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This paper considers the rise of defined-contribution (DC) pensions – such as 401(k) plans – in order to contribute to the debate about neoliberalism. It challenges the generalizability of two common accounts: the weak state intervention thesis, which argues that neoliberal policy change is driven by state retreat and deregulation, and the state-managed transition thesis, which argues that neoliberal policies are both enacted and managed through new regulations. In contrast, this paper argues that the development of the employer-based pension system between 1970 and 1995 is an instance of “neoliberalism without neoliberals.” A battery of regulations was passed between 1974 and the late 1980s that were intended to make the traditional system of defined- benefit (DB) pensioning more secure. However, this legislation triggered a business shift to 401(k)s. The legislation worked in such a counterintuitive way because of three factors related to changes in “the balance of class forces” in American society: (1) new laws increased costs for firms, with small businesses being hit the heaviest, (2) employment in the manufacturing sector, labor's traditional stronghold, declined as a share of total employment, and (3) because unions were unable or unwilling to unionize emergent sectors of the economy, new businesses in them were not compelled to negotiate DB plans. In such a context, growing regulatory costs pushed many firms to adopt DC pensions for their employees. The outcome was a major policy shift, considered by many to be a defining feature of the neoliberal era.
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Fritz W. Scharpf
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: At the end of the postwar period, the politically shaped configurations of normatively integrated European political economies differed greatly among “social-market” and “liberal market economies.” Such differences persist even though the characteristic achievements of social market economies have since eroded under the pressures of global capitalism and of European integration. Focusing on European integration from a social-market perspective, there is no question that it has widened the range of individual options. But it has also reduced the capacity of democratic politics to deal with the challenges of global capitalism, and it has contributed to rising social inequality and the erosion of public services and transfers. This paper will first summarize those asymmetries of European integration which have done the most to constrain democratic choices and to shift the balance between capital, labor, and the state by establishing an institutional priority of negative over positive integration and of monetary integration over political and social integration. It will then explain why efforts to democratize European politics will not be able to overcome these institutional asymmetries and why politically feasible reforms will not be able to remove the institutional constraints. The changes that would be required to restore democratic capacities to shape the political economy could only have a chance if present veto positions were to be fundamentally shaken. On the speculative assumption that the aftermath of a deep crisis might indeed create the window of opportunity for a political re-foundation of European integration, the concluding section will outline institutional ground rules that would facilitate democratic political action at both the European and national levels.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Politics, Labor Issues, Democracy, Capitalism
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Damien Krichewsky
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: The emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a global component of business-society relationships has triggered many controversial debates in which CSR is either advocated as a source of virtuous business or disregarded as mere “window dressing.” This paper proposes an alternative perspective on the CSR phenomenon based on N. Luhmann’s social systems theory, which guides a study of CSR in India combining macroscopic observations and the case of the cement manufacturer Lafarge India. The study shows that CSR is not primarily constituted of corporate attempts to “do well by doing good,” as the CSR doxa suggests. However, the phenomenon generates significant transformations of business-society relationships. While increasing financial expectations tend to blunt large companies’ sensitivity toward competing societal expectations, other social systems react with protest movements and political interventions. Companies respond to the perceived threat of these uncertainties by introducing new CSR-related organizational structures, which improve their ability to observe the uncertainties as parameters of economic risks. Companies subsequently mobilize calculated CSR-related practices to shield business opportunities from the possible negative consequences of sociopolitical constraints. The analytical framework outlined in the present paper introduces new angles for studying how the CSR phenomenon proceeds from and transforms the way social systems observe and regulate the role of companies in society.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Politics, Sociology, Business
  • Political Geography: India
  • Author: Mark Lutter
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: This article analyzes how social network structures affect career success in a project based labor market. The literature on team success has shown that teams perform well if they integrate both weak and strong ties simultaneously. Applying the literature to careers in the creative industries, the study suggests that creative artists are more likely to receive critical recognition if they build their careers in both familiar project networks and heterogeneous sets of creative conventions. It is argued that familiarity and diversity operate as complementary elements in the development of innovative ideas. While diversity is important to maximize the flow of new ideas, it needs to be embedded within trustworthy and familiar network structures in order to fully develop its creative potential. The suggested mechanism is tested by means of full career data of 55,097 film directors, covering 478,859 directing jobs in 330,142 film productions during the years 1900–2010. It is shown that familiarity and diversity explain a considerable part of a director’s critical success. Results from interaction effects show that diversity has greater effects on critical success if it is socially embedded within familiar social structures. The article contributes to the emerging understanding of the role of group processes and network structures in explaining individual career success.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States of America
  • Author: Jens Beckert, Jörg Rössel, Patrick Schenck
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
  • Abstract: Understanding the valuation of goods in markets has become one of the key topics in economic sociology in recent years. Especially in markets for goods that are valued for their aesthetic qualities, the ascription of value appears to be a complex social process because product quality is highly uncertain. The wine market is an extraordinary example because most consumers and even experts are not able to differentiate between wines based on objective sensory characteristics and cannot rank wines in blind tastings according to their price. Our premise is that assessed quality differences cannot be explained by the sensual qualities of the wine. Instead, we explain variations in valuation by social processes in which quality is constructed and contested. To do so we make use of Bourdieu’s field theoretical perspective, which is strongly supported in our empirical analysis of the German wine field. It shows that his model of the structure of fields has considerable power in explaining price differentiation between wineries and that the orientation of consumers towards different segments of the field is based on class hierarchy.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Food, Sociology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus