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The New Politics of the Welfare State$
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Paul Pierson

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198297567

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198297564.001.0001

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Coping With Permanent Austerity Welfare State Restructuring in Affluent Democracies

Coping With Permanent Austerity Welfare State Restructuring in Affluent Democracies

(p.410) 13 Coping With Permanent Austerity Welfare State Restructuring in Affluent Democracies
The New Politics of the Welfare State

Paul Pierson

Oxford University Press

This concluding chapter argues that the contemporary politics of the welfare state takes shape against a backdrop of both intense pressures for austerity and enduring popularity. In this context, even strong supporters of the welfare state may come to acknowledge the need for adjustment, and even severe critics may need to accept the political realities of continuing popular enthusiasm for social provision. Thus, in most of the affluent democracies, the politics of social policy centre on the renegotiation, restructuring, and modernization of the terms of the post‐war social contract rather than on its dismantling. The crucial issue is whether particular national settings facilitate the emergence of such a centrist reform effort, and if so, on what terms. The argument proceeds in three stages: in the first, a basic framework is outlined for studying the politics of reform in a context of permanent austerity; in the second, two complications are discussed — the need to incorporate different dimensions of social policy reform and the need to recognize three quite distinct configurations of welfare state politics among the affluent democracies; in the third, these arguments are applied to analyse the politics of restructuring in the liberal, social democratic, and conservative ‘worlds’ (regimes) of welfare capitalism.

Keywords:   affluent democracies, austerity, conservative regimes, liberal regimes, modernization, politics of reform, popularity, renegotiation, restructuring, social democratic regimes, social policy, social policy reform, social provision, welfare capitalism, welfare state, welfare state adjustment, welfare state politics, welfare state reform

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