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The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Anglais) Broché – 20 décembre 1989
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Description du produit
Revue de presse
′A milestone in the comparative analysis of welfare policies.′ Work, Organizations, and Markets
Présentation de l'éditeur
Esping–Andersen distinguishes several major types of welfare state, connecting these with variations in the historical development of different western countries. Current economic processes, the author argues, such as those moving towards a post–industrial order, are not shaped by autonomous market forces but by the nature of states and state differences.
Fully informed by comparative materials, this book will have great appeal to everyone working on issues of economic development and post–industrialism. Its audience will include students and academics in sociology, economics and politics.
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The neoliberal welfare regime argues that a free market will abolish class and inequality, while state intervention only strengthens issues of class. The neoliberal model argues that democracy and universal suffrage "would be likely to politicize the distributional struggle, pervert the market, and fuel inefficiencies" (10). In reality, however, the neoliberal regime, through the capitalist system, tends to commodify labor to such an extent that people were unable to survive outside of the market. "Stripping society of the institutional layers that guaranteed social reproduction outside the labor contract meant the people were decommodified" (21). This leads to a difficulty in class mobilization as workers are now nothing more than a commodity to be traded between industries. As such, they are unlikely to gain the political power to translate "mobilized power into desired policies and reforms" (16). Because the neoliberal regime is so reliant on market forces, the state will not intervene unless the familial or market institutions fail. Esping-Anderson refers to this structure as a residual or welfare state. Such a state is characterized by means-tested social assistance. This often punishes and stigmatizes recipients of social welfare and ultimately creates a system of class stratification, particularly between the middle class who relies on market social insurance and the poor who are reliant on state-sponsored social insurance programs (23). Generally, the benefits offered by the neoliberal regime are quite small, as social welfare is seen as a cause of poverty and unemployment, and may lead to laziness and "moral corruption" (42).
The conservative model disagreed with the idea of laisez-faire economic policies. Esping-Anderson suggests that the conservative ideal "was the perpetuation of patriarchy and absolutism as the best legal, political, and social shell for capitalism without class struggle" (10). The conservative paradigm sees a more authoritarian state as better for everyone, as opposed to a more chaotic system based on free markets. As such, the corporatist model created its first social policies because the corporatists saw liberalism democracy and capitalism as destroying the old hierarchical structure. In sum, the conservative ideology does not want to see people starve - commodification is morally repugnant. Rather, they want people to "subordinate self-interest to recognized authority and prevailing institutions" (38). This idea is characterized in the modern social welfare regimes in that it is still reliant on many of the precommodification institutions. Rather than having people be slaves to the market, the corporatist model makes people reliant on the state.
Lastly, the Marxist, or Social Democratic model argues that the accumulation of capital disowns people of property. This leads to deeper class divisions. Additionally, social welfare initiatives like those posed by the neoliberal and corporatist model, according the neo-Marxist paradigm, in fact is more conducive to ensuring class divisions in the name of stability, instead of actually addressing need (55). The Social Democratic model expands on this premise, arguing that by bringing social policy into the parliament, workers will have less dependence on the market and employers. This, coupled with a strong coalition between labor and other groups, farmers perhaps, leads to a system of equality and socialism through the exercise of political power.
Although Esping-Anderson specifically concentrates on the factors leading to various welfare regimes, he does touch on retrenchment, or the repeal of some social welfare initiatives (32-33). As Esping-Anderson argues, and Pierson reiterates, the theory posed by Esping-Anderson should not only explain the emergence of particular types of welfare regimes, but also their subsequent decline, particularly Esping-Anderson suggests that the "class coalitions in which the three welfare-state regime-types were founded, explain not only their past evolution but also their future prospects" (33).
All of that said, the author's occasional forays into policy areas did seem too broad-brush: some educational systems are school vouchers, while others are much more straightjacket down to devising examination content and tightly regulating entry into higher education. Ditto healthcare - some countries offer mandatory health insurance, while others may be mostly private. There is also a need to deal with legal provisions more thoroughly. While, on paper, the healthcare or educational or unemployment insurance (etc) authorities may claim to offer a benefit, in practice a person may not be able to enjoy that benefit due to some other administrative or resource hurdles (e.g. not being able to produce necessary documentation, or the resources being geographically far away from remote communities, respectively). In its existing form, the book does not go in that direction of very deep data-driven findings, which may have assisted in policy-making.
One public benefits sector / private industry which the book (and possibly the welfare benefits studies sub-discipline) may have overlooked is public transportation: in some countries, the local commuter bus & rail & streetcars & ferry (whatever) companies are in reality extensions of the municipal government running as if they are providing a public sector service (e.g. driven to spend the allocated annual budget, less driven to make a profit in order to accumulate capital for future infrastructure spending possibly years down the line, but they do often offer good student & infant & elderly & minorities discounts and are willing to operate rural routes with low riderships, budget-permitting), while in other countries such transportation are predominantly private sector.
Taking the theoretical import of the book on its own merits, the book does assist in making sense of the bewildering array and variety, among western capitalist societies, of benefits available. The typology is useful, but it is also helpful that real world events and political constraints (e.g. privatisation) are considered. The state-centric theoretical baggage is at times a little outdated (e.g. Are public sector benefits really part of "capitalism", conjuring up images of the private sector? Or aren't they better described as social policies led by the state? What about private charities and NGOs occasionally undertaking social programs on a profit to cover costs basis, e.g. for-profit cafes to offer skills-training to minorities?). But if your interest in reading the book is to look at social policies driven by the state (e.g. things like unemployment insurance, legislation, fraud & corruption investigation are still exclusively the responsibility of governments), then this book does offer a starting point.
have read this book, and despite all that has happened in the world, and to the academic study
of the world, in the 20+ years since it was published, it still rewards. And while being mostly
a book for students and experts, its just accessible enough that a general reader interested in
the welfare state could pick it up. The first half of the book, in particular, is wonderful, introducing
not only the "three worlds" metaphor (three types of modern welfare states) but reintroducing
back into mainstream discussion the idea of "decommodification" as a key for understanding
not just welfare states, but societies themselves. (check the wikipedia entries for a primer on these topics).