Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-x8cck Total loading time: 1.006 Render date: 2022-11-28T09:36:56.894Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Beyond Weak and Strong: Rethinking the State in Comparative Policy History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 April 2009

Peter Baldwin
University of California, Los Angeles
Rights & Permissions[Opens in a new window]


HTML view is not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Most public problems can be approached in many ways. Urban noise, the honking of car horns, for example, could be tackled by building effective mass transit and discouraging automobile use, by forbidding the use of horns within city limits and fining violators, by encouraging harmonious social circumstances, or at least stress-reduction education programs, to make drivers less aggressive, by developing horns that target sound waves only at offending motorists, or by encouraging everyone to wear noise-reduction earphones. The problem of sexually transmitted diseases can be solved by encouraging chastity and fidelity as virtues, by strictly criminalizing transmission, or by prescribing antibiotics after the fact. Such varying approaches are qualitatively different. They do not just reflect distinct degrees of statutory intervention. States that adopt divergent solutions may, in a similar fashion, be fundamentally different from one another, not just stronger or weaker versions of an abstract ideal of public authority.

Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 2005



1. One of the themes of Gusfield, Joseph R., The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic Order (Chicago, 1981).Google Scholar

2. Whitman, James Q., Harsh Justice: Criminal Policy and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe (New York, 2003).Google Scholar

3. Friedman, Lawrence M., The Republic of Choice: Law, Authority, and Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1990), 191Google Scholar; Ruby, Christian and Nouvel, Kévin, “Le révélateur sida,” Regards sur l'actualité 194195 (1993)Google Scholar: 86. From a European point of view, there is something distinctly nutty about American efforts to limit gunshot harm by holding manufacturers liable rather than regulating firearms. Tagesspiegel, 27 July 1998.

4. Fukuyama, Francis, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York, 1995), 17.Google Scholar

5. Rodriguez, Enrique and Steinmo, Sven, “The Development of the American and Swedish Tax System: A Comparison,” Intertax 3 (1986).Google Scholar

6. Baldwin, Peter, “Welfare State and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization,” in Føllesdal, Andreas and Koslowski, Peter, eds., Restructuring the Welfare State: Ethical Issues of Social Security in an International Perspective (Berlin, 1997)Google Scholar; idem, “Can We Define a European Welfare State Model?” in Bent Greve, ed., Comparative Welfare Systems: The Scandinavian Model in a Period of Change (London, 1996); idem, “The Welfare State for Historians,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34, no. 4 (October 1992).

7. Rose, Richard, “Is American Public Policy Exceptional?” in Shafer, Byron E., ed., Is America Different? A New Look at American Exceptionalism (Oxford, 1991).Google Scholar

8. Castles, Francis G., ed., The Comparative History of Public Policy (Oxford, 1989).Google Scholar

9. Skocpol, Theda, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States (Cambridge, Mass., 1992)Google Scholar; Gilbert, Neil, Transformation of the Welfare State: The Silent Surrender of Public Responsibility (New York, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Howard, Christopher, The Hidden Welfare State: Tax Expenditures and Social Policy in the United States (Princeton, 1997)Google Scholar; Hacker, Jacob S., The Divided Welfare State: The Battle over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States (Cambridge, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Jensen, Laura S., Patriots, Settlers, and the Origins of American Social Policy (Cambridge, 2003)Google Scholar; Eisner, Marc Allen, From Warfare State to Welfare State: World War I, Compensatory State-Building, and the Limits of the Modern Order (University Park, Pa., 2000)Google Scholar; Zelizer, Julian E., Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945–1975 (Cambridge, 1998)Google Scholar; Alston, Lee J. and Ferrie, Joseph P., Southern Paternalism and the Rise of the American Welfare State: Economics, Politics, and Institutions, 1865–1965 (Cambridge, 1999).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10. Dutton, Paul V., Origins of the French Welfare State: The Struggle for Social Reform in France, 1914–1947 (Cambridge, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Smith, Timothy B., France in Crisis: The Welfare State, Inequality and Globalization since 1980 (Cambridge, 2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

11. van Kersbergen, Kees, Social Capitalism: A Study of Christian Democracy and the Welfare State (London, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12. Examples of the latter: de Swaan, Abram, In Care of the State: Health Care, Education, and Welfare in Europe and the USA in the Modern Era (New York, 1988)Google Scholar, Ewald, François, L'état providence (Paris, 1986)Google Scholar, Scott, James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, 1998).Google Scholar

13. Wills, Garry, A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (New York, 1999)Google Scholar; DeLeon, David, The American as Anarchist: Reflections on Indigenous Radicalism (Baltimore, 1978).Google Scholar

14. Harris, José, “Society and the State in Twentieth-Century Britain,” in F. M. L. Thompson, The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750–1950, vol. 3 (Cambridge, 1990), 68.Google Scholar

15. Esping-Andersen, Gøsta, The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Oxford, 1990).Google Scholar

16. One of the few: Hurd, Madeleine, Public Spheres, Public Mores, and Democracy: Hamburg and Stockholm, 1870–1914 (Ann Arbor, 2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

17. Götz, Norbert, Ungleiche Geschwister: Die Konstruktionen von nationalsozialistischer Volksgemeinschaft und schwedischem Volksheim (Baden-Baden, 2001)Google Scholar; Broberg, Gunnar and Tydén, Mattias, Oönskade i folkhemmet: Rashygien och sterilisering i Sverige (Stockholm, 1991)Google Scholar; Runcis, Maija, Steriliseringar i folkhemmet (Stockholm, 1998)Google Scholar; Zaremba, Maciej, De rena och de andra: Om tvångssteriliseringar, rashygien och arvsynd (n.p., 1999)Google Scholar; Broberg, Gunnar and Roll-Hansen, Nils, eds., Eugenics and the Welfare State (East Lansing, 1996)Google Scholar; Zylberman, Patrick, “Les damnés de la démocratie puritaine: Stérilisations en Scandinavie, 1929–1977,” Le Mouvement Social 187 (1999): 99125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18. Ertman, Thomas, Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1997).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

19. Brewer, John and Hellmuth, Eckhart, “Introduction: Rethinking Leviathan,” in Brewer, John and Hellmuth, Eckhart, eds., Rethinking Leviathan: The Eighteenth-Century State in Britain and Germany (Oxford, 1999)Google Scholar; Behrens, C. B. A., Society, Government, and the Enlightenment: The Experiences of Eighteenth-Century France and Prussia (New York, 1985).Google Scholar

20. Baldwin, Peter, “Preemption vs. Reaction: Civil Society and the State in the Victorian World,” in Mandler, Peter, ed., Liberty and Authority in Victorian England (Oxford, forthcoming).Google Scholar

21. Pat Thane, “Government and Society in England and Wales, 1750–1914,” in Thompson, Cambridge Social History of Britain, 3:3–4; Levi, Margaret, Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1988), 97109 and passimGoogle Scholar. The standard, and magisterial, work on British taxation is now Martin Daunton, Trusting Leviathan: The Politics of Taxation in Britain, 1799–1914 (Cambridge, 2001), and Just Taxes: The Politics of Taxation in Britain, 1914–1979 (Cambridge, 2002).

22. Braddick, Michael J., The Nerves of State: Taxation and the Financing of the English State, 1558–1714 (Manchester, 1996), 193194Google Scholar. See also Stasavage, David, Public Debt and the Birth of the Democratic State: France and Great Britain, 1688–1789 (Cambridge, 2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

23. Hobson, John M., The Wealth of States: A Comparative Sociology of International Economic and Political Change (Cambridge, 1997), 1015.Google Scholar

24. Thomas, , ed., Verhandlungen der Cholera-Konferenz in Weimar am 28. und 29. April 1867 (Munich, 1867), 7277.Google Scholar

25. Baldwin, Peter, Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830–1930 (Cambridge, 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, chap. 3. In the early modern period, too, it has been observed, federalized systems, where local authorities could deal rapidly with an epidemic threat, often responded more effectively than centralized regimes, with localities awaiting orders from distant centers. Martin Dinges, “Pest und Staat: Von der Institutionengeschichte zur sozialen Konstruktion,” in Martin Dinges and Thomas Schlich, eds., Neue Wege in der Seuchengeschichte (Stuttgart, 1995), 83.

26. Novak, William J., The People's Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill, 1996)Google Scholar; Brock, William R., Investigation and Responsibility: Public Responsibility in the United States, 1865–1900 (Cambridge, 1984)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rodgers, Daniel T., Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), 8081.Google Scholar

27. Dunlavy, Colleen A., Politics and Industrialization: Early Railroads in the United States and Prussia (Princeton, 1994), 4597, 98–144Google Scholar; Dowd, Timothy and Dobbin, Frank, “Origins of the Myth of Neo-Liberalism: Regulation in the First Century of U.S. Railroading,” in Magnusson, Lars and Ottosson, Jan, eds., The State, Regulation, and the Economy: An Historical Perspective (Cheltenham, 2001).Google Scholar

28. Leichter, Howard M., Free to Be Foolish: Politics and Health Promotion in the United States and Great Britain (Princeton, 1991), 27.Google Scholar

29. Lundqvist, Lennart J., The Hare and the Tortoise: Clean Air Policies in the United States and Sweden (Ann Arbor, 1980).Google Scholar

30. Doyle, Brian, Disability, Discrimination, and Equal Opportunities: A Comparative Study of the Employment Rights of Disabled Persons (London, 1995), 4346, 68–69.Google Scholar

31. Richardson, Jeremy, ed., Policy Styles in Western Europe (London, 1982)Google Scholar; Cram, Laura and Richardson, Jeremy, eds., Policy Styles in the European Union (London,1998)Google Scholar; Vogel, David, National Styles of Regulation: Environmental Policy in Great Britain and the United States (Ithaca, 1986).Google Scholar

32. Thorne, R. Thorne, “On Sea-Borne Cholera: British Measures of Prevention v. European Measures of Restriction,” British Medical Journal 2 (13 08 1887): 339340CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Chadwick, Edwin, “Preventive Administration, as Compared with Curative Administration, as Practised in Germany,” Sanitary Journal, n.s., 169 (18 03 1890).Google Scholar

33. Huber, Peter W., Liability: The Legal Revolution and Its Consequences (New York, 1988).Google Scholar

34. Moss, David A., When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), 17, 319320.Google Scholar

35. Douglas, William O., “Vicarious Liability and Administration of Risk,” Yale Law Journal 38 (1929): 587588.Google Scholar

36. Baldwin, Peter, “The Return of the Coercive State? Behavioral Control in Multicultural Society,” in Hall, John A. et al. , eds., The Nation-State Under Challenge: Autonomy and Capacity in a Changing World (Princeton, 2003).Google Scholar

37. Davies, Stephen, The Historical Origins of Health Fascism (London, 1991).Google Scholar

38. Kulawik, Teresa, “The Nordic Model of the Welfare State and the Trouble with a Critical Perspective,” Netværk for Nordisk Velfærdsstatshistorie, Nyhedsbrev 21 (12 2002): 4.Google Scholar

39. These are themes explored in Baldwin, Peter, Disease and Democracy: The Industrialized World Faces AIDS (Berkeley and New York, 2005), chaps. 1, 11.Google Scholar

40. Lee, Philip R. and Arno, Peter S., “AIDS and Health Policy,” in Griggs, John, ed., AIDS: Public Policy Dimensions (New York, 1987), 10Google Scholar; Winkenwerder, William et al. , “Federal Spending for Illness Caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus,” New England Journal of Medicine 320, no. 24 (1989): 1599, 1603.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

41. Street, John, “British Government Policy on AIDS: Learning Not to Die of Ignorance,” Parliamentary Affairs 41 (10 1988): 495Google Scholar; House of Commons, 1986–87, Social Services Committee, Problems Associated with AIDS (13 May 1987), vol. 2, p. 153; Misztal, Barbara A., “AIDS in Australia: Diffusion of Power and Making of Policy,” in Misztal, Barbara A. and Moss, David, eds., Action on AIDS: National Policies in Comparative Perspective (New York, 1990), 190.Google Scholar

42. Hansard, 13 January 1989, vol. 144, col. 1147; Riksdagens Protokoll, Bihang, 1985–86, Socialutskottets betänkande 1985–86:15, p. 10.

43. Mann, Jonathan M. and Tarantola, Daniel J. M., eds., AIDS in the World II (New York, 1996), 203Google Scholar; Balter, Michael, “Europe: AIDS Research on a Budget,” Science 280 (19 06 1998): 1856.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

44. Martet, Christophe, Les combattants du sida (Paris, 1993), 223.Google Scholar

45. Bess, Michael, The Light-Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960–2000 (Chicago, 2003)Google Scholar, emphasizes the favor in which technological solutions are held by French political culture.

46. Strickland, Stephen P., Politics, Science, and Dread Disease: A Short History of United States Research Policy (Cambridge, Mass., 1972), 213CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Harden, Victoria A., Inventing the NIH: Federal Biomedical Research Policy, 1887–1937 (Baltimore, 1986), 25.Google Scholar

47. Kirp, David, “The Politics of Blood: Hemophilia Activism in the AIDS Crisis,” in Feldman, Eric A. and Bayer, Ronald, eds., Blood Feuds: AIDS, Blood, and the Politics of Medical Disaster (New York, 1999), 312.Google Scholar

48. Although, of course, there are debates over whether multiculturalism in fact throws up real differences or merely masks a fundamental assimilation beneath a veneer of difference. Fish, Stanley, The Trouble with Principle (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), chap. 4Google Scholar; Hall, John A. and Lindholm, Charles, Is America Breaking Apart? (Princeton, 1999).Google Scholar

49. Hayry, Matti and Hayry, Heta, “AIDS and a Small North European Country: A Study in Applied Ethics,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 3, no. 3 (1987): 59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

50. Fee, Elizabeth, “Public Health and the State: The United States,” in Porter, Dorothy, ed., The History of Public Health and the Modern State (Amsterdam, 1994), 260Google Scholar; Yankauer, Alfred, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: A Neglected Public Health Priority,” American Journal of Public Health 84, no. 12 (1994): 1896.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

51. Heidenheimer, Arnold J., “Education and Social Security Entitlements in Europe and America,” in Flora, Peter and Heidenheimer, Arnold J., eds., The Development of Welfare States in Europe and America (New Brunswick, N.J., 1981), 269304.Google Scholar

52. Eisner, Marc Allen, Antitrust and the Triumph of Economics (Chapel Hill, 1991).Google Scholar

53. Amelung, Ulrich, Der Schutz der Privatheit im Zivilrecht: Schadensersatz und Gewinnabschöpfung bei Verletzung des Rechts auf Selbstbestimmung über personenbezogene Informationen im deutschen, englischen und US-amerikanischen Recht (Tübingen, 2002), 47Google Scholar; Ruiz, Blanca R., Privacy in Telecommunications: A European and an American Approach (The Hague, 1997), 19, 54Google Scholar; Craig, John D. R., Privacy and Employment Law (Oxford, 1999), chap. 4.Google Scholar

54. Vincent, David, The Culture of Secrecy: Britain, 1832–1998 (Oxford, 1998).Google Scholar

55. Steinmo, Sven, Taxation and Democracy: Swedish, British, and American Approaches to Financing the Modern State (New Haven, 1993), 89, 38.Google Scholar

56. Baldwin, Contagion and the State, 530–36.

57. Jones, Colin and Porter, Roy, eds., Reassessing Foucault: Power, Medicine, and the Body (London, 1994)Google Scholar; Burchell, Graham et al. , eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goudsblom, Johan, “Zivilisation, Ansteckungsangst und Hygiene: Betrachtungen über ein Aspekt des europäischen Zivilisationsprozesses,” in Gleichmann, Peter et al. , eds., Materialen zu Norbert Elias' Zivilisationstheorie (Frankfurt, 1977)Google Scholar; Rose, Nikolas, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self, 2d ed. (London, 1999).Google Scholar

58. Etzioni, Amitai, The Third Way to a Good Society (London, 2000)Google Scholar; idem, The Active Society: A Theory of Societal and Political Processes (New York, 1968); Putnam, Robert D., Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Edward Banfield can perhaps be considered a forerunner of such ideas, though with the advantage of not being hampered by the current communitarians' penchant for gemeinschaftlich nostalgia: Banfield, Edward C., The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (New York, 1967).Google Scholar

59. Mann, Michael, The Sources of Social Power, vol. 2, (Cambridge, 1993), 5863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

60. Hobson, Wealth of States; Levi, Of Rule and Revenue, 124.

61. Duerr, Hans Peter, Der Mythos vom Zivilisationsprozess, 4 vols (Frankfurt, 1988)Google Scholar; Hinz, Michael, Der Zivilisationsprozess: Mythos oder Realität? Wissenschaftssoziologische Untersuchungen zur Elias-Duerr Kontroverse (Opladen, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

62. Baldwin, “Return of the Coercive State?” and “Welfare State and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization.”

63. Stearns, Peter N., Battleground of Desire: The Struggle for Self-Control in Modern America (New York, 1999).Google Scholar

64. Valverde, Mariana, Diseases of the Will: Alcohol and the Dilemmas of Freedom (Cambridge, 1998), 144147Google Scholar; Elster, Jon, Strong Feelings: Emotion, Addiction, and Human Behavior (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), 119122.Google Scholar

65. Nelson, Deborah, Pursuing Privacy in Cold War America (New York, 2002)Google Scholar; de Leon, Charles L. Ponce, Self-Exposure: Human-Interest Journalism and the Emergence of Celebrity in America, 1890–1940 (Chapel Hill, 2002).Google Scholar

66. Baldwin, Disease and Democracy, chap. 10.

67. Hoy, Suellen, Chasing Dirt: The American Pursuit of Cleanliness (New York, 1995), chaps. 4, 5Google Scholar; Tomes, Nancy, The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life (Cambridge, Mass., 1998).Google Scholar

68. McAllister, William B., Drug Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century: An International History (London, 2000).Google Scholar

69. Morelle, Aquilino, La défaite de la santé publique (Paris, 1996), 145153.Google Scholar

70. Ehrenberg, Alain, “Comment vivre avec les drogues?” in Ehrenberg, Alain, ed., Vivre avec les drogues: Régulations, politiques, marchés, usages (Paris, 1996), 615.Google Scholar

71. Kiple, Kenneth F., ed., The Cambridge World History of Human Disease (Cambridge, 1993), 205CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rüdiger, Jacob, Krankheitsbilder und Deutungsmuster: Wissen über Krankheit und dessen Bedeutung für die Praxis (Opladen, 1995), 3738Google Scholar; Bell, Nora Kizer, “Ethical Issues in AIDS Education,” in Reamer, Frederick G., ed., AIDS and Ethics (New York, 1991), 137Google Scholar; Rosoff, Arnold J., “The AIDS Crisis: Constitutional Turning Point?Law, Medicine, and Health Care 15, nos. 1–2 (Summer 1987): 81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

72. Rose, Nikolas, “Governing ‘Advanced’ Liberal Democracies,” in Barry, Andrew et al. , eds., Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neo-Liberalism, and Rationalities of Government (Chicago, 1996), 58.Google Scholar

You have Access
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Beyond Weak and Strong: Rethinking the State in Comparative Policy History
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Beyond Weak and Strong: Rethinking the State in Comparative Policy History
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Beyond Weak and Strong: Rethinking the State in Comparative Policy History
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *