Ideologues, Partisans, and Loyalists: Ministers and Policymaking in Parliamentary Cabinets by Despina Alexiadou (review)
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Reviewed by
Despina Alexiadou, Ideologues, Partisans, and Loyalists: Ministers and Policymaking in Parliamentary Cabinets. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2016. Pp. xiv + 268. Cloth $90.

This book is based on comparative research involving a large quantitative database. The latter involves the coding of data from eighteen Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries over a forty-year period. Greece, however, is one of three countries chosen for special investigation (alongside Ireland and The Netherlands). The book addresses two interrelated questions: do individual cabinet ministers make a difference in policy? Also, what determines ministerial appointments? Some ministers make a difference and others do not. The variation is to be explained according to what type of minister is appointed. The book categorizes individual ministers according to their party affiliation, previous professional careers, and party ranking. On this basis, they are identified as loyalists, partisans, or ideologues. This data is then compared to the evidence of policy change in the areas of welfare and employment. The conclusion is twofold: only ideologues and partisans can independently change policy; and ministerial types matter more for policy outcomes in multi-party rather than single-party majority governments. More generally, the book claims to explain many of the key policy choices made and the different trajectories of European countries prior to the 2008 financial crisis, its cut-off point. The model, though, seems to fit the Greek case only limitedly. In fairness, the three individual country chapters are based on relatively modest data sets, as opposed to the other country studies, where they are substantially larger. Ministerial types are shown to be less important for predicting policy outputs in a single-party majority cabinet system like Greece, but Greece is only examined in a period when it had such a government. Moreover, little variation is shown in ministerial types in the chosen cases of social affairs and labor, creating some difficulty in measuring the causal relationship between the independent and dependent variables. When "dramatic increases" (220) in social spending occurred in the early [End Page 239] 1980s, these are ascribed to the pre-electoral pledges of PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the Prime Minister's support, not to the impact of the individual minister. Similarly, in the 1990s, when Kostas Simitis initiated labor reforms via the Minister of National Economy and his Prime Minister's Office, this is interpreted as confirming that the ministerial type in charge at the Ministry of Labor did not matter. Again, some individual ministerial cases seem to fit the schema awkwardly: Georgios Gennimatas's innovation on the NHS (National Health System); Evangelos Giannopoulos' stridency on labor matters; and Stefanos Tzoumakas on pensions—each of them seem to perform differently than their type would suggest. Ultimately, the more general claims seemed to be curtailed: the types of ministerial appointment are said to be "one of the many reasons" that Greece failed to reform (212), and they only "partly explain" outcomes (211).

That said, the ambition and method of the book are to be praised. The design and execution signal high quality political science research. There is a dearth of such detailed empirical research (in English or Greek), which makes this book a very welcome addition to the contemporary literature on Greece.

Kevin Featherstone
London School of Economics and Political Science
Kevin Featherstone

Kevin Featherstone is Eleftherios Venizelos Professor of Contemporary Greek Studies and Professor of European Politics, London School of Economics and Political Science. His recent book, coauthored with Dimitris Papadimitriou, entitled Prime Ministers in Greece: The Paradox of Power (Oxford University Press, 2015), is currently being translated into Greek.

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