Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1995

Comparative Welfare State Research

Main discipline: Political science, Sociology
Lecturer: Professor G�sta Esping-Andersen
Institution: University of Trento, Italy
Dates:7 - 11 August, 1995


There are two main traditions in welfare state research: the social administration approach, which tends to be more microfocused on social policies per se: and the more- macro-oriented, typically comparative, "political economy" approach. The latter sees the welfare state ^~ a more- comprehensive system-m of societal regulation, in particular with regard to the n nexus of work, family and the state. This course 4 s about the latter-r.

We shall address three main questions throughout the course. First, what is a welfare state, and what are its principal manifestations? Is the welfare state more than merely the sum of social policies? What is the relatlonship between equality, citizenship and the welfare state? When is a state a welfare state? Is Spain a welfare state? Clearly, we must establish the fundamental criteria that underpin welfare statehood, and the main principles of international variation.

Secondly, what are the historical roots and contemporary causes of welfare state development and variation? This question has fuelled a truly enormous international scholarship over the past decades, pitting political against economic explanations. In this part of the course, we cannot avoid addressing a number of key methodological problems.

Thirdly, what are the consequence of welfare- State intervention in terms of both equality and efficiency? As regards equality, research has traditionally examined issues such as poverty and the distribution of well-being. Recently, attention has shifted to social stratification and class structure more generally. As regards efficiency, the classical debate is between n those who claim a trade-off between equality and economic performance (classical and neo-classical economics), and those who believe that the welfare state is a pre-condition for economic efficiency. The contemporary welfare state "crisis" is basically about this.

Basic reading

The lecturer
G�sta Esping-Andersen is professor of Comparative Social Systems at the University of Trento, Italy. He has previously taught at the European University in Firenze and at Harvard University. His main research interests include social stratification, labour market and welfare state development. He is the author of Politics against Markets, 1985, and The three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, 1990, and Changing Classes, 1993.