A European Variety of Capitalism as Normative Socio-Economic Construction
Amsterdam School for Social Scientific Research/Political Science University of Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In the past decade there has been much debate on the European social model the scope of which has mostly been restricted to the welfare system in the rather restricted sense of social security benefits and labour market programmes. In this paper, I want to discuss the broader socio-economic model as put forward in the literature on varieties of capitalism that also includes the institutional structures of corporate governance and the capital-labour relationship. Distinguishing ideal-typical liberal, corporatist, statist and meso-communitarian capitalist varieties I will a) analyse the social and economic performances (in terms of employ-ment, GDP growth, inequality, poverty, innovation, care for the environment) of national political economies in Western Europe, Northern America and Japan approximating these ideal types and b) examine the question of the European socio-economic model. This is a normative question because European capitalisms are diverse and a "model" has to be determined by normative choice. The political economies with the overall best performance profile are those that, like those of Switzerland, the Netherlands and particularly Scandinavia, more or less approximate the corporatist type. In the final step I will present reasons for choosing these political economies as example for a European social model. Main reasons are these countries' comparatively high democratic level, the macraeconomic/macro-social coordination aspect of their corporatist arrangements and, related, the relative reconciliation of economic and social goals.