The Comparison of Policy Regimes: An Introduction
The last decade can be described as the era of the great welfare state debate. Initially, the key issue was how to explain the phenomenal growth of welfare policies; the emphasis subsequently shifted to the welfare state's crisis. The aim of this book is not to furnish a new theory of either growth or crisis but rather to present different ways of examining and comprehending stagnation and renewal processes in social policy.
The many contending modes of analyzing the welfare state typically share a linear or stage-based conception of its development. According to one influential view, the welfare state is a functionally necessary companion to industrialization.1 A similar functionalism is also present in much of Marxist thought, where social policies are held to serve legitimacy needs within the accumulation process.2 A second, stage-theoretical, approach is found in the modernization theories of T. H. Marshall, Bendix, and Rokkan.3 Here, the welfare state is a natural component of a democratization process that begins with legal rights, is followed by political citizenship, and culminates with social rights. A third influential perspective sees welfare state development as the product of economic development, with its associated demographic changes and bureaucratic logic of growth.4 And, finally, the welfare state is also argued to be the outcome of power relations. In this view, its evolution is far from assured by historical necessity or developmental logic but is dependent on the capacity of working class movements to mobilize political power.5
These contending approaches have important theoretical and methodological similarities. They are all growth-centered theories which identify one, or a set of, underlying historical forces that propel the welfare state's advance. Thus, except perhaps for the power mobilization approach, they would be hard pressed to explain stagnation and, even more so, crises and policy reversals. Moreover, again excepting the power mobilization theory, they clearly (and often explicitly) assert cross-national convergence over time: as nations industrialize, democratize, or modernize, welfare states will emerge and be
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Publication information: Book title: Stagnation and Renewal in Social Policy:The Rise and Fall of Policy Regimes. Contributors: Martin Rein - Editor, Gøsta Esping-Andersen - Editor, Lee Rainwater - Editor. Publisher: M. E. Sharpe, Inc.. Place of publication: Armonk, NY. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 3.
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