Culture and Consensus in European Varieties of Capitalism: A by I. Bruff

By I. Bruff

Utilizing milestones within the Dutch and German political economies -- Wassenaar and Alliance for Jobs respectively -- this booklet argues that Antonio Gramsci's 'common feel' offers us with the conceptual equipment beneficial for analysing the fundamental function performed through tradition and consensus within the trajectories of nationwide capitalisms in Europe.

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Like the varieties of capitalism literature, new institutionalism contains within it a number of positions that appear contrasting but in fact share many common assumptions. For example, there is a shared emphasis on the importance of institutions in a relational sense, shaping but not determining both the strategies of actors and also their goals. Institutions thus constrain and also enable the possibilities for change (Peter Hall 1986; Thelen and Steinmo 1992). Furthermore, new institutionalism is best viewed as a series of middle-range theoretical perspectives which achieve a balance between grand theory and empirical research (Campbell and Pedersen 2001: 268–9), since case studies will be required in order to illustrate or test the given model developed (see Campbell and Pedersen (2001) for a discussion of how the competing perspectives can be united around this interplay between empirical research and theoretical reflection).

4 Generally conceived as inclusive of the arts – art, literature, theatre, music – the mass media – cinema, radio, television, print and most recently the Internet – and often also sectors such as advertising, marketing and product branding, these industries are central to the production and reproduction of signs, symbols and discourses across space. However, this reveals a significant contradiction at the heart of the literature. Presumably the identification of culture industries means that there is a continued need to differentiate between more overtly economic and more overtly cultural areas of social life; yet at the same time there is an emphasis on at least the blurring of economy and culture and in many cases the abolition of the distinction between the two (see Stuart Hall 1989 – a pronouncement he later 42 Culture and Consensus in European Varieties of Capitalism distanced himself from for its encouragement of perspectives which abandoned the economic as worthy of study (Stuart Hall 1996d, 1997)).

Key to whether the institutional environment is responsive to contemporary challenges and opportunities or not is the crucial relationship between the labour market and the welfare state in European varieties of capitalism. Briefly, the ability of especially central and northern European varieties of capitalism to maintain their welfare states depends to a significant extent on the performance of the labour market. The high floor to wages (due to the emphasis on low inequality) makes it difficult, after a period of higher unemployment in particular, for those on benefits to re-enter the labour market as they are unattractive to employers.

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