The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe: Modernization in Hard Times

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This book challenges existing theories of welfare state change by analyzing pension reforms in France, Germany, and Switzerland between 1970 and 2004. It explains why all three countries were able to adopt far-reaching reforms, adapting their pension regimes to both financial austerity and new social risks. In a radical departure from the neo-institutionalist emphasis on policy stability, the book argues that socio-structural change has led to a multidimensional pension reform agenda. A variety of cross-cutting lines of political conflict, emerging from the transition to a postindustrial economy, allowed governments to engage in strategies of political exchange and coalition-building, fostering broad cross-class coalitions in support of major reform packages. Methodologically, the book proposes a novel strategy to analyze lines of conflict, configurations of political actors, and coalitional dynamics over time. This strategy combines quantitative analyses of actor configurations based on coded policy positions with in-depth case studies.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This outstanding book both challenges and advances existing theories of policy processes in industrial democracies. Through the very important case of welfare policy, Häusermann shows that policy change does occur (thus the challenge to the immobility view), and that social structural shifts drive policy change (thus the challenge to the primacy of institutions view). She does this with rigorous methodology and data to show how governments can lead in forming strategies of political exchange and coalition building, grounding the importance of leadership and choice in the context of social influences over time. This result is a model of political analysis that reaches beyond the specific country and issue area to a general analysis of political processes. To be read by everyone!”
– Peter Gourevitch, University of California, San Diego

“Silja Häusermann’s The Politics of Welfare State Reform in Continental Europe is an original, powerful work. Häusermann contends that even in an era of austerity, when pension reform politics are said to be constrained by path dependence and policy feedback effects, paradigmatic changes to pensions are still possible – and even likely, under some circumstances. The book’s great strengths are the novelty and the grand scope of its argument, the forceful argumentation, and the skillful use of content analysis to code relevant actors’ positions on a large number of pension reform proposals in France, Germany, and Switzerland as evidence in support of the theory. This is a tremendously ambitious, and tremendously successful, first book.”
– Julia Lynch, University of Pennsylvania

“This study starts with a thorough class-analysis of post-industrial societies and then shows how socioeconomic change has translated into new political preferences for risk protection and how political actors formed surprising coalitions and introduced new policies in response to these changed demands. Methodologically innovative, theoretically highly compelling – Silja Häusermann takes us through the entire political-economic cycle and provides us with a masterful account of the new politics of the welfare state. An impressive piece of scholarship.”
– Philip Manow, University of Heidelberg

“Silja Häuserman has written a pathbreaking book that sets new theoretical and methodological standards for the study of comparative social policy. Her careful empirical analysis identifies the new political cleavages formed during the reform of existing welfare states and the institutional conditions that facilitate policy compromises both among political parties and among social actors. This book should be required reading for political economists and students of the welfare state in not only advanced industrialized economies but also developing countries.”
– Isabela Mares, Columbia University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Silja Häusermann is Assistant Professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. She has been a visiting Fellow at Harvard University and a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She was awarded the Ernst B. Haas Best Dissertation Prize of the European Politics and Society section of the American Political Science Association, the Jean Blondel Ph.D. Prize of the European Consortium for Political Research, the Junior Scientist Award by the Swiss Political Science Association, and the Young Researcher Prize by the Journal of European Social Policy and the European Social Policy Analysis Network. She has published articles on comparative welfare state analysis, public opinion and welfare states, and the Europeanization of national politics, in journals such as the European Journal of Political Research, the Socio-Economic Review, European Societies, the Journal of European Social Policy, and the Journal of European Public Policy.
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Table of Contents

Pt. I Pension Reform in Continental Europe: A Framework of Analysis

Pt. II Determinants of Successful Pension Reform in Continental Europe

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