Political Institutions and Welfare State Restructuring

Duane Swank

in The New Politics of the Welfare State

Published in print April 2001 | ISBN: 9780198297567
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600104 | DOI:
Political Institutions and Welfare State Restructuring

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The first of three chapters on the implications of electoral politics and the design of political institutions for welfare state adjustment. Swank first provides an overview of two key domestic and international pressures on developed welfare states: domestic fiscal stress and international capital mobility. He then outlines the theoretical argument that democratic institutions fundamentally determine government responses to domestic and international structural change, focusing on formal and informal institutions and drawing on and fusing insights from ‘power resources’ theory, the new institutionalism, and new cultural arguments about the determinants of social policy in advanced capitalist democracies. The next two sections utilize new data on social welfare effort, national political institutions, and internationalization to provide an econometric assessment of the social policy impacts of domestic fiscal stress and capital mobility during the period 1965 to 1995, looking first at the direct impacts of rises in public sector debt and in international capital mobility on social welfare provision, and second at the welfare state effects of fiscal stress and global capital flows across nationally and temporally divergent democratic institutional contexts; the initial focus is on total social welfare effort and then the analysis is shifted to changes in cash income maintenance and social services. The conclusion assesses the implications of the arguments and findings for the future course of social policy in developed democracies, and potentially bolsters the evidence for the central assertion that domestic institutions systematically determine the direction of welfare state restructuring.

Keywords: capital mobility; capitalist democracies; cash income maintenance; democratic institutions; developed democracies; domestic institutions; electoral politics; fiscal stress; international capital mobility; internationalization; political institutions; public sector debt; social policy; social services; social welfare effort; social welfare provision; structural change; welfare state; welfare state reform

Chapter.  17220 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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