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The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe


  • 32 b/w illus. 60 tables
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.43 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521183680)

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$36.99 (C)

This book challenges existing theories of welfare state change by analyzing pension reforms in France, Germany, and Switzerland between 1970 and 2004. It explains why all three countries were able to adopt far-reaching reforms, adapting their pension regimes to both financial austerity and new social risks. In a radical departure from the neo-institutionalist emphasis on policy stability, the book argues that socio-structural change has led to a multidimensional pension reform agenda. A variety of cross-cutting lines of political conflict, emerging from the transition to a postindustrial economy, allowed governments to engage in strategies of political exchange and coalition-building, fostering broad cross-class coalitions in support of major reform packages. Methodologically, the book proposes a novel strategy to analyze lines of conflict, configurations of political actors, and coalitional dynamics over time. This strategy combines quantitative analyses of actor configurations based on coded policy positions with in-depth case studies.


1. Introduction: 'eppur si muove' - welfare state change despite institutional inertia; 2. Modernization in hard times: the post-industrial politics of continental welfare state reform; Part I. Pension Reform in Continental Europe: A Framework of Analysis: 3. A new reform agenda: old age security in the post-industrial era; 4. Changing alliances: conflict lines and actor configurations; 5. Reform outputs: strategies of coalitional engineering; Part II. Determinants of Successful Pension Reform in Continental Europe: 6. France - trade union fragmentation as reform opportunity; 7. Germany - institutional obstacles to multidimensional reform politics; 8. Switzerland - recalibration as an enabling mechanism of pension compromises; 9. Conclusion: reform outputs and political implications.


“This outstanding book both challenges and advances existing theories of policy processes in industrial democracies. Through the very important case of welfare policy, Häusermann shows that policy change does occur (thus the challenge to the immobility view), and that social structural shifts drive policy change (thus the challenge to the primacy of institutions view). She does this with rigorous methodology and data to show how governments can lead in forming strategies of political exchange and coalition building, grounding the importance of leadership and choice in the context of social influences over time. This result is a model of political analysis that reaches beyond the specific country and issue area to a general analysis of political processes. To be read by everyone!”
– Peter Gourevitch, University of California, San Diego

“Silja Häusermann’s The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe is an original, powerful work. Häusermann contends that even in an era of austerity, when pension reform politics are said to be constrained by path dependence and policy feedback effects, paradigmatic changes to pensions are still possible – and even likely, under some circumstances. The book’s great strengths are the novelty and the grand scope of its argument, the forceful argumentation, and the skillful use of content analysis to code relevant actors’ positions on a large number of pension reform proposals in France, Germany, and Switzerland as evidence in support of the theory. This is a tremendously ambitious, and tremendously successful, first book.”
– Julia Lynch, University of Pennsylvania

“This study starts with a thorough class-analysis of post-industrial societies and then shows how socioeconomic change has translated into new political preferences for risk protection and how political actors formed surprising coalitions and introduced new policies in response to these changed demands. Methodologically innovative, theoretically highly compelling – Silja Häusermann takes us through the entire political-economic cycle and provides us with a masterful account of the new politics of the welfare state. An impressive piece of scholarship.”
– Philip Manow, University of Heidelberg

“Silja Häuserman has written a pathbreaking book that sets new theoretical and methodological standards for the study of comparative social policy. Her careful empirical analysis identifies the new political cleavages formed during the reform of existing welfare states and the institutional conditions that facilitate policy compromises both among political parties and among social actors. This book should be required reading for political economists and students of the welfare state in not only advanced industrialized economies but also developing countries.”
– Isabela Mares, Columbia University

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