In comparative welfare state analyses, cross-national differences have often been explained both by the specific profiles of welfare state institutions and the constellations of social actors. However, the way in which cultural differences also contribute to the explanation is often ignored, or at least treated as a more marginal issue. The aim of this article is to reflect on the relationship between culture and welfare state policies, and consider how it might be analysed in a comparative perspective. A theoretical framework for analysis is introduced in which the relationship of culture and welfare state policies is conceptualised as a complex, multi-level relationship which is embedded in the specific context of a particular society and can develop in contradictory ways.
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