Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 January 2018
This article explores a missing link in the recent literature on the formation of social policies: that between democracy and universalism, one desirable yet elusive feature of these policies. We base our argument on a case study of Costa Rica, the most successful case of universalism in Latin America. We proceed by first depicting Costa Rica's peculiar policy architecture, based on the incremental expansion of benefits funded on payroll taxes. Then we reconstruct the policy process to stress the key role played by technopoliticians in a democratic context. Backed by political leadership and equipped with international ideas, technopoliticians drove social policy design from agenda setting to adoption and implementation. Third, we argue that key aspects of the policy architecture established in the early 1940s were fundamental building blocks for a distinctive and seldom explored road to universalism. We conclude considering contemporary implications.