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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > W, X, Y, Z > Welfare Regimes

Welfare Regimes 

There are three main types of ‘welfare state regimes’ within market societies: conservative, social democratic, and liberal, depending on the extent to which they seek to work with, or to counter the effects of, the market on social inequalities.

(Esping-Andersen, Gosta. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.)


John Myles and Jill Quadagno (2002) argue that the most persuasive evidence that industrialization is not destiny—that politics and political institutions matter for welfare states—came from Esping-Andersen’s highly influential The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990). This book takes stock of the welfare states of the eighteen or so rich capitalist democracies in the early 1980s, and demonstrates that they can be distinguished not only in terms of relative generosity and spending but, more fundamentally, by their institutional logic for assigning welfare functions to the state, the market, and the family. Esping-Andersen identifies three distinct welfare state regimes: liberal (market-oriented) welfare states characteristic of the Anglo-American democracies, conservative regime characteristic of continental Europe, and the Nordic social democratic policy model. (A regime is understood as a particular constellation of social, political and economic arrangements which tend to nurture a particular welfare system, which in turn supports a particular pattern of stratification, and thus feeds back into its own stability.)


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