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Contribution to Collected Edition

Values and Discourse in the Politics of Adjustment


Schmidt,  Vivien A.
Problemlösungsfähigkeit der Mehrebenenpolitik in Europa, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Boston;

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Schmidt, V. A. (2000). Values and Discourse in the Politics of Adjustment. In F. W. Scharpf, & V. A. Schmidt (Eds.), Welfare and Work in the Open Economy, Vol. I: From Vulnerability to Competitiveness (pp. 229-309). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-5607-1
The chapter explores the role of values and discourse in the politics of welfare-state adjustment. By focusing on moments of crisis or transition when values were generally made explicit in public debates, the chapter offers comparative insights not only into the values that remain central to polities’ notions of social justice but also into the discourses that appealed to values in their efforts to legitimize policy change. Moreover, it considers not only the substantive content of those normative discourses but also how the national institutional context affects the locus of discourse and the course of reform. More specifically, it demonstrates that in multi-actor polities, the “coordinative discourse” that is necessary to achieve compromises among multiple policy elites may impede the effectiveness of the “communicative discourse” through which policy makers seek to legitimize change to the wider public. However, as comparative analyses of single-actor polities demonstrate, single-actor institutions do not guarantee, and multi-actor constellations do not rule out, successful communicative discourses that gain public acceptance of painful but effective welfare-state reforms.