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Globalization, Class Compromise, and American Exceptionalism: Political Change in 16 Advanced Capitalist Countries


The social science literature contains competing theories on the relationship between economic globalization and class compromise. According to supporters of the "strong globalization thesis," over the last few decades many important nationallevel economic processes have been subsumed into a worldwide "borderless" economy in which global market forces, rather than electorates, now dictate national economic policy. This argument implies that globalization has signicantly eroded the ability of democratic governance to create a genuine class compromise. Conversely, supporters of the "weak globalization thesis" maintain that the strong version of globalization is largely a "myth," and that as a result national economic policy geared towards egalitarianism is still possible. After analyzing changes in four social and political indicators associated with class compromise – for 16 advanced capitalist countries over the period of 1960 to 1999 – I find qualified support for the weak globalization thesis. In particular, the data reveal that countries with substantially mixed economies and high levels of market regulation have participated in the global economy without substantially eroding their preexisting levels of class compromise. Conversely, for countries with low levels of state involvement in the economy, globalization has seemingly undermined class compromise. This is especially true in the United States. The paper concludes by suggesting that the unique structure of the American political economy explains the exceptionally low levels of class compromise found in the United States.

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