This study began in 1985 as a short monograph ( Dixon 1986) written during a sabbatical as a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. It subsequently grew. Its focus is on the diverse array of approaches to social security that is in evidence around the world. Its threefold objectives are: to articulate the values that underpin the global development of social security; to explore global social security patterns, recent developments and future issues; and to assess and rank social security programs and systems. Under comparativeevaluative review are the social security systems in 172 countries.
It is readily acknowledged that a social security system sits in a context that embraces economics, geography, history, political institutions, social structures and processes, and, of course, values and ideology. Deciding whether and how best to contextualize a social security system in a comparative framework is a problem that bedevils comparative scholars. For those masochistic enough to want to take a global perspective it becomes a nightmare: how do you contextualize 172 social security systems? The simple answer is that it cannot be done.
My path to whatever social security enlightenment I have achieved is littered with unpaid intellectual debts. As a lowly postgraduate scholar at the Australian National University (ANU) in the early 1970s I shared a space with Ron Mendelsohn, blissfully unaware at the time of his esteemed position in the comparative social security pantheon. I recall being fascinated by his insights into why Australia has such a distinctive social security system, an issue that was the subject of my research ( Dixon 1977, 1978/79, 1981a and 1983). Then followed a stimulating exposure to Jim Cutt (then Professor and Head of the Masters in Administrative Studies Program at the ANU, now at the University of Victoria in Canada), who recruited me to work on an income-support