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Review Article: Rethinking Party Politics and the Welfare State – Recent Advances in the Literature

  • Silja Häusermann, Georg Picot and Dominik Geering
Abstract

This article discusses recent research on party politics and the welfare state that differs from traditional ‘partisan politics theory’. The traditional approach states that left-wing and right-wing parties hold contrasting positions on welfare issues, depending on the interests of their respective electorates. This view has recently been challenged by three strands of research, which emphasize (1) the effects of electoral change on parties’ policy positions, (2) the role of context, notably electoral institutions, party competition and the configuration of party systems, and (3) the impact of different linkages between parties and electorates (particularistic versus programmatic). The implications of these arguments for the applicability of partisan theory are presented, and theoretical and empirical issues are identified for further research.

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Department of Politics and Administration, University of Konstanz; Oxford Institute of Social Policy, University of Oxford (email: georg.picot@spi.ox.ac.uk); and Department of Political Science, University of Zurich, respectively. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 17th International Conference of the Council for European Studies in Montréal, 2010. The authors would like to thank Karen Anderson, Margarita Estévez-Abe, Maurizio Ferrera, Furio Stamati and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments, as well as Sarah Birch for editorial guidance.

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26 Allan and Scruggs, ‘Political Partisanship and Welfare State Reform in Advanced Industrial Societies’; Bradley et al., ‘Distribution and Redistribution in Postindustrial Democracies’; Iversen and Soskice, ‘Electoral Institutions and the Politics of Coalitions’; Beramendi and Rueda, ‘Social Democracy Constrained’.

27 Huber and Stephens, Development and Crisis of the Welfare State.

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56 E.g., Esping-Andersen, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Some authors, however, stress the idea that parties represent the material interests of their constituency (Stephens, The Transition from Socialism to Capitalism) and the concepts of core constituency and partisanship actually imply a strong socio-cultural attachment to a party.

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58 Orloff and Skocpol, ‘Why Not Equal Protection?’; see also Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers.

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61 Estévez-Abe, Welfare and Capitalism in Postwar Japan.

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67 Rueda, Social Democracy Inside Out.

68 Häusermann, The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe.

69 Brady, David, ed., Comparing European Workers: Part B, Policies and Institutions (Bingley, W. Yorks.: Emerald, 2011), pp. 181211

70 E.g., Rueda, Social Democracy Inside Out.

71 Zohlnhöfer, Reimut, ‘Parteien, Vetospieler Und Der Wettbewerb Um Wählerstimmen: Die Arbeitsmarkt-Und Beschäftigungspolitik Der Ära Kohl’, Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 42 (2001), 655682

72 Lynch, Age in the Welfare State.

73 Redefinitions of the dependent variable in terms of fragmentation v. universalism can be found also in the research strand focusing on party competition: Ferrera, Modelli Di Solidarietà; Picot, Politics of Segmentation.

74 See, e.g., Kitschelt and Wilkinson, Patrons, Clients, and Policies.

75 Estévez-Abe, Welfare and Capitalism in Postwar Japan.

76 Orloff and Skocpol, ‘Why Not Equal Protection?’

* Department of Politics and Administration, University of Konstanz; Oxford Institute of Social Policy, University of Oxford (email: ); and Department of Political Science, University of Zurich, respectively. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 17th International Conference of the Council for European Studies in Montréal, 2010. The authors would like to thank Karen Anderson, Margarita Estévez-Abe, Maurizio Ferrera, Furio Stamati and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments, as well as Sarah Birch for editorial guidance.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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