The New Politics of the Welfare State

The New Politics of the Welfare State

The New Politics of the Welfare State

The New Politics of the Welfare State


'It is hard to exaggerate the theoretical contributions that The New Politics of the Welfare State makes. Numerous insights for future research agendas can be discerned in the volume... an inspiring comparative book.' -Japanese Journal of Political Science'There is no doubt that The New Politics of the Welfare State, edited by Paul Pierson, is on the top of the reading list for students of comparative politics and welfare states. The authors clearly demonstrate the impacts of post-industrialization, aging populations, and globalization on welfare reforms under various political settings and different policy legacies. They also successfully define pressing research agendas for further investigations.' -Japanese Journal of Political Science'There is much in this collection to admire. The quality of the individual pieces is evident, and there are useful insights on issues like deindustrialisation, decommodification, and the adaptation of economic production to different institutional contexts... a worthwhile acquisition for a library.' -Social PolicyThe welfare states of the affluent democracies now stand at the centre of political discussion and social conflict. In these path-breaking essays, an international team of leading analysts demonstrate that the politics of social policy focus on the renegotiation, restructuring, and modernization of the post-war social contract rather than its dismantling.


Paul Pierson

Long recognized as a defining feature of the advanced industrial democracies, the welfare state currently commands greater attention than ever. Even at a time of worsening inequality, demands for retrenchment have grown more insistent. In many countries, efforts to introduce significant changes in social policy have provoked sharp conflicts and triggered widespread social unrest. During the past few years, announcements of plans for welfare state cutbacks in France, Germany, and Italy prompted the largest demonstrations in twenty years. In the United States, the Republican attempt to alter core elements of national social policy led to a fierce clash between Congress and President and an unprecedented three-week shutdown of 'non-essential' government services. In France, the Conservative government's efforts to achieve an electoral endorsement of its austerity plans led to a stunning reversal of its overwhelming victory four years earlier. Throughout the world of affluent democracies, the welfare state is at the centre of political discussion and social conflict.

A series of major social, economic, and political shifts leave little doubt that conflict over social policy will continue. Indeed, there is a high probability that it will intensify in many countries. Welfare states face vigorous and mounting criticism in the wake of major global economic change, both because of concerns about competitiveness and because economic shifts have altered domestic balances of political power. In many countries, persistent high unemployment has exacerbated already heavy fiscal burdens. In addition, the financial impact of population ageing will be considerable throughout the OECD. In some countries, demographic pressures on pension and health care systems are so severe that they raise fundamental questions about the sustainability of present arrangements. Finally, for most European countries the formation of Economic and Monetary Union creates new constraints which will intensify demands for retrenchment. Indeed, it was policies announced to meet EMU's strict convergence criteria that prompted protests in France, Italy, and elsewhere.

For all these reasons, we are clearly in a new era of austerity. This era is likely to be long-lived, and it is certain to produce deep social anxieties and painful adjustments. Yet despite the unquestionable centrality of the welfare state to contemporary politics, our understanding of the issues involved remains spotty at best. On the growth of the welfare state there

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