Restructuring social bargains: the politics of trade and labor policy in the US Democrats and British Labour
Gardner, Mark J. (Mark James)
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Left parties are beset by political challenges to traditional goals of social justice and full employment. The literature which examines the recent politics of party program change is dominated by theories focusing on variables external to parties. These include theories focusing on social or economic structure, or on institutions.This study argues that the literature fails to examine sufficiently the role of factions in restructuring party policy. It develops a framework for analyzing the role of factions in advancing strategies and programs which become manifest as policy. The empirical focus of the work is the recent politics of trade and labor policy in the US Democrats and British Labour.This work also challenges the adequacy of spatial theories which assume a unitary actor responding to public opinion. While some theorists have attempted to model strategic behavior of factions, such accounts do not provide an adequate framework for analyzing policy and strategic preferences.The analysis presented here begins with an examination of factional type and social location. Factions can be categorized by their social location (i.e. class, region), and by whether they are associated with a mass base. Factions composed mainly of politicians and party bureaucrats tend to be focused on winning elections and on maintaining the business climate. Factions representing a mass base are concerned with specific policy outputs as well as electoral performance.The work shows that factions push strategies and policies that reflect their type and location. Changes in party policy and strategy are the result of changes in factional control, and compromises between factions. Structural and institutional changes affect the policy agenda and the power of factions, but factions also act as agents advancing specific visions and strategies.This analysis proves particularly important at a time a time of rapid institutional innovation when policy consensus is at a minimum. Currently, factional politics is dominated by a struggle between those who wish to retain traditional left goals, and newly powerful market-oriented factions concerned about maximizing middle class votes. The outcomes of factional struggles are shown to have a large bearing on policies and coalition-building strategies adopted by parties.
- Political science