What are welfare state typologies and how are they useful, if at all?

Authored by: Kees van Kersbergen

Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631649
eBook ISBN: 9781315207049
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315207049-12

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Abstract

This chapter examines the need and utility of typologies for the comparative analysis of welfare capitalism. There exist various typologies, such as Castles’ (1993) classification of different ‘families of nations’ that was developed to capture and express similarities between countries’ public policies, based on common cultural, historical and geographical features. The best-known and prolific classification of types of capitalism (rather than welfare) is Hall and Soskice’s (2001) distinction between different production regimes, labelled the ‘Varieties of Capitalism’ approach. However, the field of comparative welfare state research is dominated by, and greatly indebted to, the work of Gøsta Esping-Andersen, whose landmark study The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990) completely revolutionized the way social scientists look at the welfare state. Two innovations were particularly powerful (for an attempt to integrate the varieties and worlds of welfare approaches, see Schröder 2013). First, he introduced the concept of a welfare regime that allowed a much broader and better understanding of how the major institutions of society (state, market and family) interacted to produce work and welfare. In this way he not only helped remove the field’s exclusive and theoretically unsatisfying preoccupation with the state and social spending but he also opened up a whole new area for innovative research. Second, he not only introduced, documented and explained the qualitative variation in welfare regimes (as the dependent variable) but he also showed how these regimes (as the independent variable) were systematically related to differences in social outcomes that really matter, particularly in terms of the differential structuring of post-industrial employment trajectories.

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