Park, Myung Joon (2011). Chances and Limits of Experimental Corporatism in Transition Societies: The South Korean Case (1990-2003) in Comparison to Spain (1977-1986). PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


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This study analyses and discusses the chances and limits of corporatist experiments in transition societies. In recent decades, several countries have used them as temporary means of governance to cope with the complicated processes of dual transformation: political and social democratization on the one hand and economic liberalization on the other. Analyzing the processes of corporatist policy-making and their effects, this study pays attention to the essential tension between the functional necessity and the configurative incapability of such experiments. It attempts to overcome the limits of the previous studies, which have either neglected the essential tension and the contextual peculiarities of transition societies; or paid little attention to the concrete processes of integrating corporatist arrangements into the established arenas of policy-making. The main objects of the empirical analysis are the experiments of South Korea, in the 1990s when reforms towards dual transformation - social democratization (democratic labor relations and social insurance expansion) and economic liberalization (deregulation of labor markets and industrial restructuring) - were exactly being pursued, and various types of corporatist arrangements were formed and reformed to cope with the reforms. This is comparable with the experiences of Spain in the 1970s and 1980s, when the similar phenomena occurred under similar context. Through a comparison of the two countries, this study tries to more precisely understand the peculiarities of the Korean experiences and to extract general theses on the chances and limits of experimental corporatism in transition societies, which are distinguished from the neo-corporatist experiences in advanced democratic capitalism in Western Europe. Broadly, the experiments in Korea were activated under the three governments for a decade long, which resepectively form two phases: the formative attempts under the two conservative governments (1990-1998) and the more strengthened attempts under the successive center-left government (1998-2003). As none of the reform programs were strongly pursued in the former phase, the effects of experimental corporatism were trivial in both reform areas in the formative time. Their effects were strengthened much more, as the center-left government accelerated reforms in both areas. The latter phase can be further divided into two: the experiments in their heyday in 1998, when corporatism was urgently emphasized as a means to manage the serious economic crisis; and the institutionalized experiments thereafter. The corporatist experiments in Korea were restrained due to their limited political and social integration. On the one hand, frequent discords between the corporatist channels and the administrative and parliamentary actors limited the political integration of corporatism, while the labor movement did not have a privileged relationship with any political parties; and the strong state tradition, which had developed over the previous decades, remained dominant in policy-making. Even though they tried to overcome the limits through institutionalization and achieved some advancement, such problems could not be completely solved. On the other hand, discords between the divided labor movements and between the national leadership of the confederations and the local unions often limited the social integration of corporatism. The stronger the initiatives at corporatist experiments became, the more serious the problems were of their social integration such as rand-and-file revolts and the counter-mobilization of the non-participants in corporatism, which ultimately led even the most advanced experiment to remain ‘immobile corporatism’. The relatively unsuccessful and vulnerable experiences in Korea have both similarities and differences in comparison to the pioneering experiments in Spain. Different from Korea, Spain accelerated reforms towards social democratization from the beginning of democratic transition. Accordingly, corporatist experiments in Spain did not need to deal with the issues of democratic labor reform as much as in Korea, but made contribution to strengthening the social insurances much more and earlier than in Korea. Coordination between the political actors and the corporatist channel was less difficult than in Korea, as political parties, which had privileged relationships with trade unions were achieving enormous political success. Accordingly, they did not need institutional mechanisms for the political integration of corporatism. The social integration of the corporatist arrangements was less difficult as well by virtue of the less severe competition between the divided labor movements and of the relatively coherent structure of union confederations. These empirical analyses have some implications on the relevant theories. The integration problems of corporatist arrangements demonstrate the validity of classic neo-corporatism theories, which emphasize the organizational properties and structural networks between unions and political parties. The roles of experimental corporatism in dual transformation vary according to the contextual variations: this has not been paid attention to by now, and needs further elaboration. The unique features of experimental corporatism and its essential tension need to be further analyzed and theorized.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Park, Myung Joonmejupa@gmail.comUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-44068
Date: 3 November 2011
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Management, Economy and Social Sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Sociology and Social Psychology > Department of Scociology
Subjects: Social sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:
corporatism, transition societies, Korea, industrial relations, tripartism, democratizationEnglish
Date of oral exam: 18 December 2009
NameAcademic Title
Streeck, WolfgangProfessor Dr. Dr. h.c.
Schulz-Nieswandt, FrankProfessor Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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