Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.
In Esping-Andersen’s typology of welfare capitalism, ‘liberal’ welfare regimes are marked by a lack of decommodification, that is to say, their policies are designed around increasing participation in the market economy rather than shielding from it. Liberal thus tend to have limited, means-tested benefits.
Esping-Andersen described the welfare states of continental Europe as ‘conservative,’ in that they retained traditional class and status divisions in the distribution of welfare, and in that they had historic roots in the desire of the ruling class/state authorities to quell socialist movements from below. These welfare regimes are marked by statist intervention and uneven yet generally high spending on social benefits. In addition, benefits in ‘conservative’ regimes are traditionally aimed at the ‘family’ as the basic unit, and do not easily allow for female employment to be combined with childrearing.
For Esping-Andersen, the Social Democratic welfare regimes are marked by ‘decommodification,’ universalism, and a commitment to individual freedom. He finds the roots of this in the historically strong position of Social Democratic parties in these countries, as well as in the feedback loops that large public service sectors create once instituted.
Seen by Esping-Andersen as the chief demand that welfare states serve, decommodification refers to the removal of the person from the ‘cash nexus’ of the market, that is, the ability of a person to survive without having (or if unable) to sell his labor. This is chiefly accomplished through public provision of vital goods (health care, housing, education) and generous unemployment and retirement benefits.
Koven, Seth, and Sonya Michel. Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of Welfare States. New York: Routledge, 1993.
A number of scholars have turned their attention on the importance of ‘maternalism’ in the formation of welfare states. This attention originally came from the fact that some of the most successful early welfare policies, particularly in the United States, targeted women and were promoted and enacted by women. These benefits – widow’s pensions, health care for mothers and babies, and regulations of working conditions for women – were justified through rhetoric stressing the distinct strengths and weaknesses of women. This maternalist rhetoric was able to unite middle-class feminists and devout Christians as well as the working class women who needed the benefits the most – though there were often conflicts and misunderstandings between the groups. In the long run, maternalism proved a shaky foundation for welfare, as it was easily co-opted by patriarchal or nationalist groups and vulnerable to institutional takeover by male-interests.
Welfare policies gained the support of early feminists as natural extensions of the caring benevolence characteristic of the female ‘sphere.’ Later feminists rejected this rhetoric but continued to support welfare policies as a way of breaking patriarchal control and allowing for women to combine childrearing with a career.
Pronatalism is a topic explored by several authors in the Koven and Michel anthology that had a significant impact on welfare state development in the early 20th century. Narratives of national decline and the growing popularity of eugenics led to support for policies that would increase the health of the nation and the (re)productivity of its women. Although this support was welcomed by some women’s groups, especially Catholic ones, at first, eventually pronatalist rhetoric was rejected for its biological and materialist view of women and their role. After the discrediting of Fascist and Nazi regimes, pronatalism became taboo in most Western nations, but has experienced a revival in recent years in light of declining birth rates and impending demographic threats to the welfare state.
Skocpol, Theda. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.
Skocpol advocates a sociological analysis of policy formation that focuses on ‘structured polities.’ These polities are meant to contrast with the usual units of political analysis – mainly classes and political parties – by looking at institutions and states and the way in which they shape the possibilities and formations of political actors in their purview.
The school of political and sociological thought advocated by Skocpol, instiutionalism stresses the importance of the state as an actor, able to pursue its own self-interests and internal logics independent of the broader class and political dynamics outside itself. This view contrasts especially with traditional analyses of the United States which assume an absent or ‘night watchman’ state throughout most of pre-New Deal American history. Instead, Skocpol argues that the American state was active even in the 19th century, shaping political and economic developments through organs such as the courts or the ‘spoils system.’
Policy feedback loops
Skocpol, Esping-Andersen, and others pay attention to this aspect of instiutionalist theory in the analysis of welfare states, where it seems particularly applicable. Policy feedback loops occur when a policy transfigures the field of political action in a way which then influences the political process, in effect shaping the forces which now control the policy itself. In terms of the welfare state, this often refers, as in the work of Pierson, to the way that welfare programs politicize their constituencies, create policy domains populated with think tanks and interest groups, and form large civil service bureaucracies, in the end creating a whole polity around the program itself that might be quite different from the forces that brought the program into being.
Rodgers, Daniel T. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.
Welfare states cluster around the “Atlantic world,” made up of northern Europe and English-speaking North America. One factor influencing this geography, as explored by Rodgers, is the close interconnections between these nations which allowed for transnational flows of ideas and the mutual copying of ‘best practices.’ In addition, these nations were often engaged in fierce competition with one another, goading each other on in the battle to see who can craft the most advanced ‘civilization.’ In Rodger’s analysis, this flow occurred mainly from Europe to the United States before the New Deal, which was the culmination of several decades of trans-Atlantic Progressive thought. Others, such as de Grazia, emphasize the influence of American ideas on Europe from the period after the First World War until the present. On a broader level, similar transnational connections can be found elsewhere, for example between Scandinavian countries, or between Eastern and Western Europe, and form an important factor in welfare state development.
Traditional views of the New Deal have been challenged by recent scholarship in several ways. First, Rodger’s argues that rather than constituting a ‘big bang’ of unprecedented policy making, the New Deal drew heavily from ideas and attempted reforms that took place in the preceding decades. Second, Brown shows how the New Deal was not as radical or as leftist as once thought; instead, Roosevelt was very conscience of business concerns and thus imposed fiscal constraints that greatly limited the scope of policy. Finally, Schulman highlights the importance of the South as a key focus of New Deal policy and as a factor shaping its formation, and argues that after the War, the New Deal moved South and continued to reshape that region’s economy.
Power of ideas
Rodgers argues that crises such as the Great Depression cannot themselves lead to policy formation, but instead speed the enactment of ideas and policies that were already ‘in the air.’ By extension, this supports Burstein’s focus on policy domains, where think tanks, academics, and professionals create discourses and formulate policies around a given domain that politicians inevitably draw on when crafting legislation.
Baldwin, Peter. The Politics of Social Solidarity: Class Bases of the European Welfare State, 1875-1975. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Baldwin’s fundamental concern is the uneven ‘universalism’ and ‘solidarity’ of various European welfare states. He finds the key to this in the concept of ‘risk.’ In a situation where risk is understood to be broadly shared, individuals will support sweeping measures of social insurance as the best means for self protection; yet while this element is selfish, the result is a reconceptualization of the community as all those who share common risks, meaning, in these cases, the entire nation. Baldwin argues that the fractured welfare policies of continental Europe and the universalist ones of what he terms “Anglo-Scandinavia” derive from the political history of ‘risk’ in action.
Swenson, Peter. Capitalists against Markets: The Making of Labor Markets and Welfare States in the United States and Sweden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Solidaristic labor markets occur when industries operate in situations of low employment and stiff international competition. In these markets, individual firms have an incentive to pay high wages in order to increase labor supply and secure the best workers, and the workers themselves are in a strong position to insist on wage increases. Yet since industry-wide wage increases would be fatal to competitiveness on the world market, firms and unions are willing to enter into collective bargaining in order to keep wages low. This creates a temptation to offer increased wages in the form of ‘welfare capitalism’; in order to fight this, and to provide a compensation for workers in return for accepting low pay, both unions and employers accept the government provision of expansive welfare benefits, paid for by high payroll taxes.
In some industries, higher productivity can be gained by paying above-market wages, which secure a higher-trained workforce, reduce turnover, and discourage ‘shirking.’ Often, firms find it more efficient to pay these wages in the form of ‘welfare capitalism’ – pensions, insurance, and unemployment benefits. These firms will bargain with unions at the firm level, but resist industry-wide collective bargaining or governmental regulation, as they would lose the competitive advantage gained by higher-than-average wages.
Swenson identifies three types of labor markets, the first of which is marked by ‘cartelism.’ In this market, producers in a highly-competitive market with few barriers to entry willingly engage in collective bargaining with unions in order to establish a high minimum wage, which helps counter competitive price gouging and solidifies the position of established firms.
Klein, Jennifer. For All These Rights: Business, Labor, and the Shaping of America’s Public-Private Welfare State. Politics and society in twentieth-century America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Similar to Baldwin’s concept of ‘risk,’ Klein traces the importance of the concept of ‘security’ in the
American welfare state. She finds that ‘security’ can have multiple senses in the welfare state concept:
for workers, the term came to mean a broad definition of social citizenship, viewing protection from the market as a fundamental right, and stressing social solidarity. Insurance companies, however, saw security in terms of ‘risk’ – which, in contrast to Baldwin’s and Barr’s view, is here seen as something that dehumanizes and promotes profit-seeking by eliminating the most vulnerable from the risk pool. For ‘capitalists,’ security meant the security from the risk of profit loss, which, as the insurance companies convinced them, could be best obtained by providing welfare benefits themselves, and not letting the state do so.
Public-Private Welfare State
Klein outlines how a series of historic developments and the nature of American capitalism and politics contributed to the formation of a ‘public-private’ welfare state, in government funding is handed over to private organizations for the implementation of welfare programs, and in which vital welfare functions are left to the insurance market.
Schulman, Bruce J. From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South, 1938-1980. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Schulman argues for the importance of ‘place’ in analyses of policy. Specifically, he shows how the ‘South’ – as a conceptualized region, as a political block, and as an economic area – shaped and was shaped by federal policy during the New Deal and the postwar era.
Though not used by him explicitly, Schulman shows the importance of defense spending, research grants, and other measures favoring specific industries in the shaping of regional economies and in providing a channel for government spending for purposes similar to that of welfare in areas resistant to welfare itself. To see this as welfare differs from those like Esping-Andersen who define welfare in terms of anti-market policies; yet it is undeniable that large defense industries in America function similarly to large civil servant bureaucracies in Europe as de facto extensions of state provision.
Brown, Michael K. Race, Money, and the American Welfare State. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Money — ‘Tax State’
Brown employs Schumpeter’s notion of the ‘tax state’ – the view that the state is essentially a parasite whose activity necessarily takes away from that of private industry – to explain the limitations faced by welfare expansion: welfare states can only spend as much as they are able to tax, and when faced with stiff ideological or business opposition to increased taxation, their possible actions are severely limited.
Katz, Michael B. The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001.
Katz draws on the T.H. Marshall’s definition of ‘social citizenship’ as an extension of civil and political citizenship. The latter two guaranteed citizens property rights and the right to vote respectively, and ‘social citizenship’ guaranteed the right to a minimum standard of life. Katz contrasts social citizenship where this guarantee is extended to all citizens from birth or naturalization with a more limited approach that limits full rights to those seen to have ‘earned’ it through work or good behavior. For Katz, it is the former type that marks the heart of the goals of the welfare state, and welfare reforms that go against this principle a retreat from true welfare.
Pierson, Paul “The New Politics of the Welfare State,” World Politics 48, no. 2 (1996): 143-179.
Glatzer, Miguel, and Dietrich Rueschemeyer. Globalization and the Future of the Welfare State. Pittsburgh, Pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005
Many authors have commented on the trend of ‘welfare retrenchment’ since the late 1970s, predicting the imminent demise of the welfare state. Pierson examines many of these claims and finds them wanting in empirical or theoretical rigor. He argues that, despite their anti-welfare rhetoric, both Reagan and Thatcher actually had very limited success in decreasing the size of the welfare state. This is because the welfare state, Pierson argues, is much more resilient than many think, most notably because of institutional feedback loops that have created forces for perpetuating welfare programs independent from those that led to their creation. More arguments against retrenchment can be found in Glatzer and Rueschemeyer. The authors in that volume find that globalization, rather than forcing welfare state reduction through international competition, is actually quite compatible with welfare state creation, as evidenced by the Scandinavian experience. Another argument against retrenchment can be found in Barr.
Barr, N. A. The Welfare State As Piggy Bank: Information, Risk, Uncertainty, and the Role of the State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
Welfare State as Piggy Bank
Barr divides welfare spending into two broad categories. The first he calls the ‘Robin Hood’ function of the welfare state: the redistribution of wealth through taxes and cash transfers. The second is the “piggy bank” function of the welfare state: the protection of individuals against catastrophe through public insurance and forced savings. Barr states that many of those who see inevitable welfare retrenchment focus on the first function, and see welfare as an expendable luxury that conflicts with economic rationalism. Barr focuses on the piggy bank function, which he shows is actually more economically efficient than similar market mechanisms or the lack of any insurance at all. Private unemployment, retirement, and health insurance, he argues, simply do not work without significant government regulation, and work much better when the risk pool is expanded to the entire population through public programs. In this light, there is no reason to believe that purely economic forces will lead to welfare retrenchment.
Burstein, Paul, “Policy Domains: Organization, Culture, and Policy Outcomes,” Annual Review of Sociology 17 (1991)
Burstein explores the growing scholarship on ‘policy domains,’ which are defined as the constellation of actors grouped around a single issue. These actors, which include professionals, academics, think tanks, congressional committees, interest groups, state organizations, and civil servants, can be seen as the primary loci for policy development, especially in the formulation of issues and the development of possible legislation. Burstein argues that there is much that needs to be empirically studied about the impact of domains versus the impact of broader forces outside individual domains on policy formulation. However, few dispute that policy domains do have a significant impact on legislation, especially in regards to welfare.
Feldman, Stanley and John Zaller, “The Political Culture of Ambivalence: Ideological Responses to the Welfare State,” American Journal of Political Science 36:1 (1992), 268-307.
Feldman and Zaller examine survey data in which Americans simultaneously hold seemingly contradictory attitudes towards the state. On the one hand they express a mistrust of the state and a desire for it to be smaller, but on the other hand when asked about specific state programs – Medicare, Social Security, etc. – respondents tended to express favorable opinions. Feldman and Zaller explain this by examining the roots of American ideology, which stress both liberty and justice. The former is the dominant belief, and seeks to reduce the power of the state, but the latter is affected by gross inequalities of wealth and catastrophic distress, especially when they are seen as ‘unearned.’
Luebbert, Gregory M. Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy: Social Classes and the Political Origins of Regimes in Interwar Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Class origins of political regimes
Luebbert presents an empirically-grounded and nuanced version of the class-theory of political regime formation. He argues that the choice in Western Europe between liberalism, fascism, and social democracy was determined by the nature of political class coalitions. In countries like Great Britain where a unified middle class joined with a cooperative, moderate working class, liberal political and social regimes resulted. However, in countries with deep non-class divisions, between rural and urban, for example, or between different ethnic or religious groups, such coalitions did not emerge. In these situations, Luebbert argues that the rural peasant class became the deciding factor: if it decided to align itself with a middle-class faction, fascism resulted; if it aligned instead with a strong working-class, social democracy was the result. Though this framework still has much explanatory power, it has been seriously challenged, for example by Swenson, who shows that in fact alliances between workers and the rural middle classes determined Swedish social democratic development.
Mettler, Suzanne and Andrew Milstein, “American Political Development from Citizens’ Perspective: Tracking the Presence of the Federal Government in Individual Lives Over Time,” Studies in American Political Development 21 (Spring 2007), 110-130.
Sense of state
Mettler and Milstein embark on an attempt to quantitatively track the level of welfare spending in the United States since the 19th century. They argue that this figure of aggregate spending can serve as a rough approximation of the presence of the state in individuals lives. They find that the American state has historically been much more present than many have thought. They find that the postwar era from 1950 to 1980 constituted the high-water mark of American welfare spending, creating a generation whose lives were intimately shaped by government spending.
Ost, David. 2005. The defeat of Solidarity: anger and politics in postcommunist Europe. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Ost analyzes the decline of the Solidarity trade movement in postcommunist Poland in terms of ‘anger.’ Emotion, Ost argues, can be a tool for organizing ‘losers’ of economic changes along non-economic lines; in the Polish case, workers who lost their jobs because of the transition to capitalize were encouraged by the political right to blame their problems on ‘immoral’ atheists and Communists in government. As a result, workers came to support xenophobic and conservative political parties that did little, in Ost’s view, to further their real economic interests. This phenomenon can be seen widely in contemporary democracies, including the United States, where it gains an additionally-loaded racial element. As explored by Brown, civil rights movements led some middle- and working-class whites to feel victimized, leading them to support cuts to programs seen as benefiting racial minorities.
Åslund, Anders. 2007. How capitalism was built: the transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Aslund divides the transition paths taken by the postcommunist countries of Eastern Europe into three groups. The first group largely kept the economic and social structures of the Soviet Union in place, and are marked by authoritarian political structures and planned economies. The second group constitutes the countries of East Central Europe, which broke radically with Soviet-era economic policies early on, often under the influence of liberal advisers, but have generally pursued welfare policies similar to those in place in continental Europe. The final group is marked by the ‘East Asian’ model of low-tax regimes and minimal welfare offerings, though some such as the Baltic states) pursued this earlier than others.
Rudra, Nita. 2007. Welfare States in Developing Countries: Unique or Universal? TheJournal of Politics, 69(2): 378-396
Developing World Welfare
Rudra challenges the common view that developing countries either have approaches to welfare that differ to wildly for categorization, or are all alike in the basic lack of welfare policy. Rudra examines a cluster of moderately-developed nations and finds three broad approaches to welfare. In productivist states, the focus is on insuring smooth market functioning and full labor mobilization. In protectionist states, welfare takes the form of tariffs, subsidies for domestic business, and labor market regulation. Hybrid states try to combine elements of both, by for example subsidizing national champions but allowing for free trade and competition in other sectors.
Arts W, Gelissen J: Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? A state-of-the-art report. J Eur Soc Policy 2002, 12:137-158.
Five Worlds of Welfare Capitalism
Gelissen and Arts examine the many revisions of Esping-Andersen’s original ‘three worlds’ in the ten years after its publication. They discuss critiques made of the very attempt at defining ‘ideal types’ of welfare regimes but find the exercise still important for an area of study still in its infancy. The scholars they review construct groupings that sometimes depart significantly from Esping-Andersen and from each other. However, the most common departure from Esping Andersen is the addition of two new categories: the “Latin rim” welfare state, seen as being characteristic of the states of Southern Europe, where welfare benefits exist very unevenly and in the context of high levels of corruption and black marketeering; and the ‘feminist’ welfare state, an umbrella term for states where welfare developed primarily due to female mobilization.