Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Klaus Armingeon and Michelle Beyeler
Chapter 1: Introduction: A Comparative Study of the OECD and European Welfare States
Michelle Beyeler This book is about the internationalisation of ideas concerning the design of national welfare systems. How do ideas develop in international organisations and to what extent and under what conditions are they translated into national policies? We focus on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This international organisation is well suited for our purpose, because it can neither exert regulatory nor financial pressure to influence the behaviour of national actors. If the OECD wants to influence national policies, it has to persuade national actors of the solutions it provides to cope with domestic economic problems. One method by which the OECD presents these solutions to national actors is the regular country surveys issued for all member states. The organisation uses the surveys as a means of pushing their agenda for policy debates and reforms in member countries (cf. Marcussen in this volume). Two major questions about the interaction of the OECD and domestic systems guide this research. First, we are interested in the consistency of OECD recommendations. Do the ideas and suggestions about welfare state development vary according to the national contexts, or is the OECD promoting uniform best practices for all countries? Second, we analyse the effectiveness of the recommendations. To what extent are actual policy developments in a country in concordance with the OECD policy recommendations? When and why does concordance not occur? Rather than expecting OECD ideas to have a direct and uniform impact on national welfare states, we hypothesise that the impact...