On July 6 1984, the fourth Labour government were elected into parliament after defeating the National party in a snap election. 1984 can be regarded as a major turning point in New Zealand political history in the sense that significant political changes affected the whole of the New Zealand society, economy and political structure. New Zealand government's experimented with radical Neoliberal policy programmes to achieve economic and social progress during this period. The essay shall discuss the central features of the process of policy change over the period of 1984 to 1993 in New Zealand. These reforms were among the most sweeping in scope and scale within any industrialised democracy. There are a significant number of historical and institutional similarities between Australia and New Zealand which make them a fertile ground for comparative analysis. This essay shall compare industrial relations reform in Australia and New Zealand during the 1980s and 1990s, integrating both institutionalist and interest-based approaches.
Within comparative politics there are two main approaches to the impact of economic change on national policy patterns. The first, new institutionalism has been very influential in comparative industrial relations. The second, which focuses on the role of interests, has also been significant in New Zealand and Australian politics.
The concept of institutionalism is central to the analysis of the reform episode that took place in New Zealand. Institutions are the rules of the game in a society or, more formally, are the humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction (North,1990:3). Zucker defines Institutionalism as a fundamentally cognitive process (1983:25). In comparison, Immergut argues that the theoretical core of the new institutionalism is the view that there is a tendency for certain arrangements in social life to persist over institutions and for these institutional arrangements to affect not just strategic actions but also the preference formation of social actors (1998:7). Immergut stresses the fundamentals of the concept of institutionalism can be problematic as there are many conflicting definitions and analysis. "Since the common research interest is in the black box between potential political demands and ultimate outcomes, it does not make sense to predefine the contents of this box. A standard definition of "institution" is not desirable; the common research agenda is the study of institutional effects wherever, or however, they occur" (1998:25). Thus, the author suggests that "the representation of interests is shaped by collective actors and institutions that bear the shape of their own history" (Immergut 1998: 17).
It is important to analyse the role of institutional arrangements in the development of national economies in New Zealand and Australia, and assesses their reaction to the pressures brought by the processes of social and economic reforms. It presents the main theoretical traditions in comparative political study, thus, one can apply these theoretical perspectives to the study of Australasian economies. In the early 1980s, both countries elected labour governments after long periods of conservative rule (Castles, 1996:96). In response to international economic demands, these governments introduced market-orientated reforms. Four major institutional characteristics of these two democracies shall be scrutinised further, including the various structures of the political system, the welfare state and the relationship between organised interests and the state (Castles, 1996:97). This essay is particularly concerned with the extent, direction and causes of changes in these four institutional arrangements in the period 1984-1993, in a comparative study of New Zealand and Australia. North identifies that institutional change took place in many cases, but it has been path-dependent and incremental (1990: 89). The level to which institutions played a...
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