The Rise and Fall of Irish Social Partnership.

Doctoral dissertation, PhD Public Policy, University College Dublin

 Irish social partnership was the result of a historically contingent political strategy to

navigate the integration of a small open economy into a globalized market, in which

being able to attract and retain volatile capital was paramount. The main architect

behind this strategy was the state, and the primary objective was industrial stability.

At a critical juncture in 1987 the Irish government chose to adopt a labour inclusive

strategy of adjustment to a fiscal crisis, the opposite of what occurred in the UK.

This choice resonated with the ideational toolbox of the leading political party in

power, Fianna Fáil. Given external constraints, and institutional legacies, the terms

had to be such that no beneficial constraints were going to be imposed on business.

Unlike other small open European countries no legal-statutory changes were introduced

to institutionalise the countervailing power of trade unions. 

Social partnership was premised on a privatized political exchange in which wage

moderation was compensated with increases in private consumption through tax reductions.

It was not premised on the social democratic bargain of increasing public

consumption and redistribution that occurred in classic Scandinavian corporatism.

The author drives us through the various stages of social partnership pre and post

EMU, from its origins as crisis management and economic development, to a subsequent

phase in which government used the spoils of economic growth to buy off

social dissent, to its eventual collapse in response to the Eurozone crisis. The book

takes a strong stance against economistic accounts of institutional change in which

actors pursue rational strategies and come up with optimal institutional designs.

Drawing upon theories of institutional change in comparative political economy,

it argues that economic institutions are premised on volatile political coalitions,

and the main determinants of outcomes are the power resources controlled by the

various actors. It is these domestic institutional resources that condition how national

actors respond to the adjustment constraints of global market capitalism.

» Aidan Regan - Manuscript.pdf (PDF, 1.38 Mb)