Tobias Schulze-Cleven, J. Timo Weishaupt
Playing Normative Legacies: Partisanship and Employment Policies in Crisis-Ridden Europe

Politics & Society, 2015: 43, issue 2, pp. 269-299
ISSN: 0032-3292 (print); 1552-7514 (online)

Europe’s affluent democracies adopted different policy strategies to buffer their labor markets from the effects of the worldwide recession that followed the financial crisis in 2007. This article offers a sociologically anchored historical institutionalist explanation to account for this divergence. Reviewing the politics of employment policymaking before, during, and after the crisis in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Denmark, the article traces partisan actors’ tactics of maneuvering within the constraints of institutionally embedded mass preferences to legitimate their policies and improve their electoral performance. The analysis moves beyond contemporary treatments of path-dependent institutional evolution in two important ways. Rather than focusing on how arrangements at the work-welfare nexus provide actors with particular functional benefits and differential power resources, it examines institutions’ ideational effects on the construction of electorates’ interests. Moreover, it illuminates partisan politicians’ room for strategic agency, breaking with interpretations that view government responses as the product of particular producer group coalitions.