European Journal of Industrial Relations
In Ireland and Southern European countries, social pacts were widely seen as a mechanism to mobilize broad support for weak governments to legitimate difficult reforms in the context of monetary integration. I retrace the politics of these pacts in Ireland and Italy to argue that it was less the condition of ‘weak government’ that enabled the negotiation of tripartite pacts, than the intervention of a ‘strong executive’: the prime minister’s office. Social pacts were pursued as a political strategy to enhance prime ministerial executive autonomy. In the aftermath of the euro crisis, this means of enhancing executive autonomy has been replaced by the negotiation of grand coalition governments, with the exclusion of unions; but this continues the trend towards the prime ministerialization of politics.