Negotiating Socio-Economic Policy through Social Partnership

Abstract

This paper is concerned with three distinct but interlinked research objectives (Adshead, Kirby, Millar, 2008);

a) Understanding how Social Partnership has influenced the Irish State as a distinct political and legal order (Administration).

b) Understanding how Social Partnership has influenced the states relationship with the external economic environment (Market Economy).

c) Understanding how Social Partnership has influenced the states relationship with civic associations (Civil Society).

In essence, the paper is interested in the changing relationship between the various dimensions of state activity and social partnership, and the impact this has on the changing nature of ‘governance’. The state can be conceptualised as both a dependent and independent variable depending on what dimension of state activity is being examined. Causation runs in both directions; the state shapes social partnership, which in turn shapes the nature of the state as a distinct administrative order (O’Donnell, 2008). The paper will argue that as social partnership evolved into the economic policy domain of (b- Market Economy) and the social policy domain of (c- Civil Society), a distinct shift from central government to associative governance occurred. This shift from centralised government to governance is less obvious in (a). Therefore the paper will be concentrating on (b) and (c), which reflect sections (4.0) and (5.0) respectively.

1.0 Introduction: Negotiating Socio-Economic Policy through Social Partnership.

The thesis of the paper pertains that as social partnership evolved beyond macroeconomic policies into labour market ‘supply side’ socio-economic policies it simultaneously developed a ‘web of networks’ with civil society, state & market actors. These include voluntary, community, public, private and enterprising associations. These actors tend to be informed less by ‘maximising’ gains in corporatist political exchange but deliberation over best practice policy design. It is this engagement with diverse actors in civil society that alters the procedural terms of reference in social partnership and its relationship to the state. This is what accounts for a distinct shift from central government to associative governance in the public policy framework.

The remainder of this paper is under  the ‘governance’ section above

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