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Successful Justifications: The Case of Recent Labour Market Reforms in Germany

Claudia Ruddat
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Claudia Ruddat
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Open Panel

Abstract

Recent works on unpopular welfare reforms underline the importance of further research on political actors’ communicative actions. Some are concerned with the role of political discourse for the legitimation of welfare reforms (Ross 2000a, Cox 2001, Schmidt 2002, Wrobel 2009), others demonstrate the new quality of partisan politics (Ross 2000b, Kitschelt 2002), use concepts such as “ideational leadership” (Stiller 2010) or integrate the notion of risk into prospect theory (Vis 2010) to better understand the probability of unpopular welfare reforms. The paper will present empirical data from an analysis of a large pool of public statements of the advocacy coalitions for and against Hartz IV, certainly the widest-reaching and most unpopular welfare reform in Post-Reunification-Germany. It argues that justifications are not only used by policy makers to ex-post legitimize the results of non-public bargaining processes. It understands justifications as an integral part of policy formulation during which ends-rational and value-rational arguments function as justification proposals in the coordinative discourse, Schmidt (2002) labeled typical for the German multi-actor system. The argument is twofold. First, reform entrepreneurs have to use a justification profile compatible to the veto-players’ justification profiles to be successful during policy formulation in German quasi-consociationalism (Lehmbruch 2002), second, it has to be compatible to their traditional justification profile to avoid to be punished electorally. The argument is illustrated by the German Social Democrats for whom electoral punishment followed hard on the heels of the ironically counterintuitive implementation of Hartz IV.