The development of labour market policies : comparing long-term policy change in the British Labour Party and the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
During the 1980s and 1990s, the autonomy and capacity of the state has been under considerable stress in regards to the reduction of public policy choice. 'External' forces of globalisation and technical innovations have led to a loss of economic 'boundary control', initiating cross-national policy change and a convergence of public policies on a neo- liberally-led paradigm. This development has been reflected in the processes of policy change experienced by the British Labour Party and the German Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), in particular in the ideologically charged area of 'social democratic' labour market policy (LMP) choices. This study argues, that although political systems and institutional cultures of 'social democratic' parties and agents differ substantially between the UK and Germany, 'social democratic' parties economic policy approaches are increasingly developing along similar lines. Both parties' responses to the changing contextual 'internal' domestic as well as 'external' socio-economic factors are cross-nationally compared and their constrains encountered by path dependencies and a historically institutionalised economic policy paradigm are investigated. Faced with a general shift in paradigm from 'Keynesian' to 'neo-liberal', party actors - guided by prescriptive social democratic policy templates - were initially inhibited from aligning policy approaches. This contributed significantly to a 'delayed' shift in both parties' economic policy paradigm, electoral failure, and a lack of the parties' public economic policy credibility. Several strata of information have been used to combine analytical and empirical evidence - utilising both quantitative (statistical) data as well as the historical analysis of both parties' policy development processes. Qualitative sources have been backed up by quantitative evidence of the parties' programmatic changes in labour market polices that were gathered with a labour market policy coding frame for the statistical multi-lingual comparison and content analysis of parties policy documents.