Table of Contents

Handbook on Multi-level Governance

Handbook on Multi-level Governance

Elgar original reference

Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn

Scholarship of multi-level governance has developed into one of the most innovative themes of research in political science and public policy. This accessible Handbook presents a thorough review of the wide-ranging literature, encompassing various theoretical and conceptual approaches to multi-level governance and their application to policy-making in domestic, regional and global contexts.

Chapter 26: Social Policy and Multi-level Governance

Alexander Graser and Stein Kuhnle

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance


Alexander Graser and Stein Kuhnle ‘Social policy’ and ‘multi-level governance’ – there is some unease in combining these two concepts, although the multi-level provision of social policy has for long been a reality. But as a traditionally – and maybe genuinely – local matter, social policy might still not lend itself as easily to centralization, transnationalization or even globalization as might be the case for other policy fields. In the following, we will first circumscribe what is commonly understood as ‘social policy.’ In a second step, we will sketch and critically discuss the dominant paradigm regarding the role of social policy in multi-level systems. In our last section, we will turn to some real cases in order to identify trends and to illustrate the variety of multi-level arrangements in social policy. 26.1 SOCIAL POLICY – AN AMORPHOUS CONCEPT Social policy is difficult to define. What is ‘social’? The definition can be based upon the concerned areas of public policy, the aims of the respective policies or the instruments chosen. 26.1.1 Areas of Public Policy The easiest way to start is to define social policy by the areas of public policy normally subsumed under the title of ‘social policy’ in academic studies of social policies, schools of social policy – the first dating back to the Department of Social Science and Administration at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1912 – or textbooks on the subject.1 If we do, we will find that income maintenance schemes (or social insurance against certain risks), social services...

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