Beyond Welfare State Models

Beyond Welfare State Models

Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy

Globalization and Welfare series

Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen

Welfare state models have for decades been the gold standard of welfare state research. Beyond Welfare State Models escapes the straitjacket of conventional welfare state models and challenges the existing literature in two ways. Firstly the contributors argue that the standard typologies have omitted important aspects of welfare state development. Secondly, the work develops and underlines the importance of a more fluid transnational conceptualisation. As this book shows, welfare states are not created in national isolation but are heavily influenced by transnational economic, political and cultural interdependencies. The authors illustrate these important points of criticism with their studies on the transnational history of social policy, religion and the welfare state, Nordic cooperation within the fields of social policy and marriage law, and the transnational contexts of national family policies.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Rethinking Welfare State Models

Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen

Subjects: social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen Welfare state research has for decades been dominated by models. The comparative welfare state research industry has produced, recycled and restructured an impressive number of categorizations or models of national social security systems. Historians, when turning their attention to the history of welfare states, have often underlined the national specificities of their own countries as unique national models. By doing so they may have criticized generalizations associated with comparative research, but at the same time they have contributed to ever more sophisticated model categorizations that welfare state researchers have constructed with an almost Linnaean ambition. Much has been learned from the systematic comparisons as well as from the in-depth national studies. Yet, while the comparative and historical ambitions associated with research on models are praiseworthy, they are also limited by the very same concept. Comparisons of models often indicate that nation-states and national societies are taken for granted as the units of research. The importance of history is pointed out, associated with a stress on institutional continuities and path-dependencies, yet in this way ‘history’ tends to become synonymous with national characteristics. The limits of approach remain, regardless of whether just one or several countries are seen to share the characteristics of a model or a regime. In this book models are questioned as an analytical framework for welfare state research. At the same time, we argue for recognizing cross-national comparative political, cultural and economic practices – which often utilize the concept of model – as an important...