Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2000


The Politics and Political Economy of Contemporary Welfare Capitalism

Main discipline: Political Science
Lecturer: Professor Kees van Kersbergen,
University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands


Course description
Numerous social science studies have diagnosed the crisis of the welfare state. In the 1970s and early 1980s, it had reached its limits, in the later 1980s it had entered a phase in which inequality was allowed to grow, and later it is seen as a victim of globalisation. It is now time to question these diagnoses: A major explanatory problem for contemporary theories is the persistence rather than "crisis" or "breakdown" of the major institutions of welfare capitalism.

Both macro- and meso-institutional theories have started to identify the crucial political and institutional mechanisms that explain welfare state persistence. Moreover, a major prediction of this body of literature is that these mechanisms also will preclude the institutional transformation or "race to the bottom" of welfare capitalism in the next decade or so. The course is founded on the conviction that in order to get a good understanding of contemporary welfare state development, it is necessary to adopt a broad political and political economy approach to the development of advanced welfare capitalism.


Basic readings


Additional readings (optional)


The lecturer
Dr. Kees van Kersbergen is professor of National Political Systems and Dutch Politics at the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He studied at the University of Amsterdam, and has his doctorate from European University Institute in Florence (Italy). He is the author of Social Capitalism. A Study of Christian Democracy and the Welfare State (Cambridge: Polity 1995), which was awarded the seventh Stein Rokkan Prize in Comparative Social Science. He has published a number of articles in scholarly journals, focusing on welfare states, social policies, gender, Dutch politics and European integration. He is currently working on a study of the politics of adjustment in contemporary welfare states.