Volume 42, No. 1 | Special interests in a new terrain

Michael Baggesen Klitgaard and Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard | The Mechanisms of Disempowerment: the Danish Labor Movement and Labor Market Policy since the 1960s

Thirty years of disempowering labor unions in Western democracies are commonly explained as an effect of economic globalization and post-industrialization leading to increasing union fragmentation, decreasing union density, and a decline in class voting. Previous studies have seen these structural changes and political correlates as indicators of a decline in the political power of the unions. We argue that government policy has contributed to the decline in unions’ political power in ways that cannot simply be reduced to changes in economic and social structures. Structural choices on behalf of the government have reduced the political resources unions can bring to bear in the policy-making process, and governments have done this by systematically curbing union influence in the policy making processes. Thus, the organization of the policy process is suggested as the causal mechanism of the politically induced reduction in unions’ political power. This hypothesis is tested on decision making data on the ten most significant cases drawn from Danish labor market policy in the
period 1967-2008.

Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz and Peter Munk Christiansen | The Usual Suspects: Interest Groups in the Media

The media play an important role when interest groups seek influence on public policy. However, the literature only provides little insight into the extent to which different groups are successful in attracting media attention. Based on systematic registration of interest group appearances in three national newspapers in selected time intervals over a 30 year period we demonstrate that groups appear frequently – although not more frequently today – in the written media. Groups appearing most often are the usual suspects: diversity in group appearance has increased a little over time, but a few groups get the lion’s share of attention, and they are mainly groups with insider status in regard to public decision making, i.e. business groups, labor groups, and groups representing public authorities. Variation in group media appearance is found across policy areas and newspaper and there is some variation in the balance between positive and negative attention to different groups according to the newspaper in question.

Anne Rasmussen | The Organizations in the EU Policy: Diminished Relevance of National Party-Political Contacts?

The EU has been portrayed as a new type of political system where national parties do not have the same ability to act as linkage between citizens and the political system as they do in the national context. In spite of this, results from a recent study show that interest groups still attach high priority to interacting with national political parties on European issues, and that their contacts to political parties have not moved to Brussels. Instead, it is demonstrated that contacts to national and European parties are mutually reinforcing. The article also shows how variation in the priority that interest groups attach to interacting with national political parties on European issues can be explained by their existing party ties and degree of EU involvement.

Carsten Daugbjerg and Dan Kristian Møller | Organic Farming Policy and the Capacities of the Organic Interest Groups in Denmark, Sweden and Germany

Organic farming entered the political agenda in Northern Europe in the 1980s. This significantly changed the conditions for the associations representing the organic farming industry and influenced the way they developed. In Denmark organic farming was defined as a niche industry and it was not until later that environmental concerns were given priority. In Sweden organic farming was defined as an environmental measure. In Germany it was initially seen as a measure to decrease surplus production in the EU and later as a consumer protection measure. These divergent perceptions of the policy problems which organic farming was to address have influenced the development of the capacities of organic interest groups differently. The Danish organic interest group has developed substantial capacities in marketing of organic produce, while its Swedish and Germans counterparts have developed such capacities only to a limited extent and have remained relatively weak groups.

Karsten Vrangbæk, Hilmar Rommetvedt and Ståle Opedal | Patient Organizations in Denmark and Norway: Characteristics and Strategies for Interest Mediation

This article analyzes the role of patient organizations as mediators of patient interests in the Nordic welfare states (Denmark and Norway). Patient organizations and their strategies for influencing political decision making have received limited attention in the international literature on interest organizations so far. The article concludes that Danish and Norwegian patient organizations are „polyvalent“ in nature as they undertake a range of different activities spanning from membership service and information to explicit parliamentary and administrative lobbyism. They have a strong resource base in their members, and excellent possibilities for influencing the public and political agendas through the media, but they have to be careful in balancing their activities and strategic affiliations in order to remain legitimate players.

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