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Social Democracy and Contextual Unemployment: New Zealand Labour in 1990

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This paper examines the spatial implications of social-democratic policy transformation. It does so by exploring the political consequences of residential contextual unemployment engendered by a Labour government which had once been dedicated to maintaining full employment. Faced with economic crisis, as Przeworski's model predicts [Capitalism and social democracy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1985)], New Zealand Labour, beginning in 1984, abandoned its traditional social-democratic statist policies, including the maintenance of full employment, and allowed unemployment to skyrocket under its stewardship. This meant subjecting its supporters to significant contextual cross-pressures, since many residential neighbourhoods became characterised by both high concentrations of Labour partisans, and by those recently unemployed by Labour's new market-liberal policies. Using original survey data merged with New Zealand census data, empirical findings show that residual partisan loyalties and a lack of a major party alternative constrained respondents' partisan disaffection, while channelling their disillusionment into both minor party voting and systemic, governmental criticisms - likely fuelling New Zealand's drive for electoral reform and a new system of proportional representation.
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Keywords: CONTEXT; ELECTORAL REFORM; LABOUR POLITICS; NEW ZEALAND; SOCIAL DEMOCRACY; UNEMPLOYMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1999

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