The Household Economy

Gøsta Esping‐Andersen

in Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies

Published in print February 1999 | ISBN: 9780198742005
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599163 | DOI:
 The Household Economy

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Revisits welfare regimes through the analytical lens of the family, first making the point that modernization theory should not have been taken at face value, since even if history has, in general, eroded the role of households in welfare production, this is perhaps less salient than specific international variations (some nations are characterized by their advanced level of de‐ familialization of welfare responsibilities, others for their sustained adherence to familialism). In other words, some societies may have brought the idealized Parsonian family into being; others reproduce many of the features of the ‘pre‐industrial’ household. Most welfare state theory provides little help in understanding such variation, and the real problem begins with the association of the nuclear family with industrialism, for it is simply wrong to assume that it lost its welfare functions with the advent of welfare states. The second point addresses the prevailing, often feminist, arguments that models of welfare regimes that have been specified via a political economy perspective fail to hold up when subject to a gendered analysis. Alternative gendered typologies do, in fact, often contradict political economy typologies, but the contradiction may be spurious because different phenomena are being explained and compared. The objective of this chapter is not to debate gender theories, but to understand the position of the (changing) family in the overall infrastructure of welfare production and consumption: what happens to our political economy models of welfare regimes when we insert the family; what are the effects of family change on welfare states and, ultimately, on post‐industrial change? However, since household‐welfare production is largely—but far from exclusively—based on women's unpaid labour, gender differences in the family‐welfare nexus clearly must be addressed. The three sections of the chapter are: Households and Welfare Production; The Family and Comparative Welfare Regimes; and Familialism and the Low‐Fertility Equilibrium.

Keywords: de‐familialization; familialism; family; gender; household economy; industrialism; low‐fertility equilibrium; nuclear family; political economy; welfare consumption; welfare production; welfare regimes; welfare responsibilities; welfare state; welfare state theory

Chapter.  10758 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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