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Collapsing Worlds and Varieties of welfare capitalism: In search of a new political economy of welfare


  • Waltraud Schelkle


The study of welfare capitalism is concerned with a founding question of political economy, namely how capitalism and democracy can be combined. Ever since the publication of Esping-Andersen’s Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism in 1990, the answer was sought in identifying ideal types of welfare states that support a class compromise. The Varieties of (Welfare) Capitalism literature is increasingly used as a complementary theory of production systems although its rationale for social policies is largely incompatible with the Worlds typology. This article argues, first, that popular regime typologies have degenerated as a research programme, notwithstanding their many achievements. The main reason for this lies in a simplistic notion of the relationship between politics and economics in modern society. Secondly, the article outlines an alternative for analysing welfare provisions and their evolution, drawing on insights of the new politics and the new economics of welfare. This framework can give a systematic account of welfare program restructuring that undermines regime typologies. It suggests a different question for the political economy of welfare, namely how capitalism and democracy can be kept distinct.

Suggested Citation

  • Waltraud Schelkle, 2012. "Collapsing Worlds and Varieties of welfare capitalism: In search of a new political economy of welfare," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 54, European Institute, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:eiq:eileqs:54

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1995. " A Theory of the Welfare State," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 97(4), pages 495-526, December.
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    3. Agell, Jonas, 1999. "On the Benefits from Rigid Labour Markets: Norms, Market Failures, and Social Insurance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages 143-164, February.
    4. Bruno Amable & Donatella Gatti & Jan Schumacher, 2006. "Welfare-State Retrenchment: The Partisan Effect Revisited," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(3), pages 426-444, Autumn.
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    6. Barr, Nicholas, 1992. "Economic Theory and the Welfare State: A Survey and Interpretation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 741-803, June.
    7. Amable, Bruno, 2003. "The Diversity of Modern Capitalism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199261147.
    8. Crouch, Colin, 2005. "Capitalist Diversity and Change: Recombinant Governance and Institutional Entrepreneurs," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286652.
    9. Barr, Nicholas, 1992. "Economic theory and the welfare state : a survey and interpretation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 279, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    10. Esping-Andersen, Gosta, 1999. "Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198742005.
    11. A. B. Atkinson, 1999. "The Economic Consequences of Rolling Back the Welfare State," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262011719, January.
    12. Ferrera, Maurizio & Hemerijck, Anton & Rhodes, Martin, 2000. "Recasting European Welfare States for the 21st Century," European Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 427-446, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sonja Avlijas, 2014. "Capitalist Diversity on Europe's Periphery, Dorothee Bohle and Béla Greskovits, Edited by Peter J. Katzenstein, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012, pp. 287, ISBN 978-0-8014-7815-4," Croatian Economic Survey, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, vol. 16(2), pages 147-159, December.
    2. Abel Bojar, 2015. "Biting the Hand that Feeds: Reconsidering Partisanship in an Age of Permanent Austerity," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 91, European Institute, LSE.

    More about this item


    welfare state; political economy; comparative politics; varieties of capitalism;

    JEL classification:

    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines

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