Political Institutions, Veto Points, and the Process of Welfare State Adaptation

Giuliano Bonoli

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, Veto Points, and the Process of Welfare State Adaptation

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This is the second of three chapters on the implications of electoral politics and the design of political institutions for welfare state adjustment. Bonoli explores the relationship between political institutions and patterns of welfare retrenchment, both on a theoretical level and on the basis of the observation of welfare reforms adopted in countries characterized by different levels of institutional power concentration. The main empirical focus is on Britain, an exemplar of strong power concentration, Switzerland, which has a political system characterized by high levels of power fragmentation, and France, an intermediate case. For each of the three countries, narrative accounts are provided of how selected welfare reforms (pension reform in all three countries and unemployment insurance reform in Switzerland) have been adopted. The comparison suggests that the relationship between constitutional structures and welfare adaptation is not a linear one, whereby power concentration is directly linked to a higher or lower rate of success in achieving restructuring, or to the amount of restructuring that can be obtained. Power concentration does, however, appear to be related to the form that welfare state adaptation takes: in contexts of strong power concentration, reform tends to be unilateral and geared towards retrenchment; in contrast, in institutional contexts characterized by veto points, reform tends to combine measures of retrenchment with expansion and improvements of existing programmes.

Keywords: Britain; electoral politics; France; institutional power; pension reform; political institutions; power concentration; Switzerland; unemployment insurance reform; veto points; welfare adaptation; welfare reforms; welfare state; welfare state adaptation; welfare state reform; welfare state retrenchment

Chapter.  12263 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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