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Journal Article

Changing Ideas: Organised Capitalism and the German Left


Callaghan,  Helen
Institutioneller Wandel im gegenwärtigen Kapitalismus, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;


Höpner,  Martin
Europäische Liberalisierungspolitik, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Callaghan, H., & Höpner, M. (2012). Changing Ideas: Organised Capitalism and the German Left. West European Politics, 35(3), 551-573. doi:10.1080/01402382.2012.665740.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0010-1EC4-9
What determines party positions on issues of economic governance? Most previous research has pointed either to the presumed material interests of the parties' clienteles, or to the political institutions that shape electoral competition. Both approaches do well in explaining cross-national variation, but neither can adequately account for changes over time. This article documents German Social Democrats' policy preferences and the underlying discourse on organised capitalism from 1880 onward to highlight the crucial role of historical context. The interests reflected in party positions cannot simply be read off the material environment. Instead, as suggested by constructivist work on preference formation, they depend on theories regarding the causal effect of alterative policy measures. Following Peter Hall, we treat the evolution of such theories as a ‘process structured in space and time’, by illustrating how ‘context factors’ affect the relative salience of the multiple considerations pertaining to organised capital.