What do the recent trends in German economic development convey about the trajectory of change? Has liberalization prepared the German economy to deal with new challenges? What effects will liberalization have on the co-ordinating capacities of economic institutions? This article argues that co-ordination and liberalization are two sides of the same coin in the process of corporate restructuring in the face of economic shocks. Firms seek labour co-operation in the face of tighter competitive pressures and exploit institutional advantages of co-ordination. However, tighter co-operation with core workers sharpened insider–outsider divisions and were built upon service sector cost cutting through liberalization. The combination of plant-level restructuring and social policy change forms a trajectory of institutional adjustment of forming complementary economic segments which work under different rules. The process is driven by producer coalitions of export-oriented firms and core workers’ representatives, rather than by firms per se.