Workers’ Participation: Comparative Historical Perspectives from the Nineteenth Century to the End of the Cold War

  • Stefan BergerEmail author


Stefan Berger opens with a historical view on workers’ participation at plant level in a comparative perspective. Berger questions the ‘Varieties of Capitalism (VOC)’ approach (Hall and Soskice. Varieties of capitalism: the institutional foundations of comparative advantage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001) as an explanatory tool to understand varieties of workers’ representation. He argues that a multifactor explanation is necessary to understand the relative success or failure of models of social partnership. These factors include characteristics of the state but also the political culture and the influence of ideas, values, and norms. This he illustrates by reconstructing historical trajectories from the first half of the twentieth century via the era of the Cold War toward the 1980s. He distinguishes between the authoritarian traditions of, for example, formerly fascist Germany, Italy, and Spain, and the liberal traditions of the US, UK, and Australia as well as the Nordic models. While the idea of a ‘social partnership’ came to fruition in Western Europe after the Second World War, the varying political cultures, state systems, and established norms and values in European societies contributed to different developments of the participation of workers. Before 1945, the traditions of social liberalism and social Catholicism played a greater role than in the second half of the century. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea of promoting ‘capitalism with a human face’ and ‘social partnership’ were more popular in Western Europe than they have been since the 1990s. Interesting ideas of participation and teamwork at plant level have also been developed outside of Europe, for example, in cooperatives, which shall also be discussed in this volume.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social Movements and Department of HistoryRuhr University BochumBochumGermany

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