The Dynamics of Policy Innovation and Paradigmatic Change
Edited by Hideko Magara
Chapter 13: Historical evolution of welfare policy ideas: the Scandinavian perspective
Although Sweden is a small country judging from its population, it has been paid a fair share of attention because of the generous welfare system that simultaneously has shown rather solid economic performance. The so-called 'Sweden model' was formed under the long-lived Swedish Social Democratic Workers' Party (SAP) and reached its height in the middle of the twentieth century. However, it is widely accepted that the model began to fluctuate in the 1970s and finally collapsed after the severe economic recession of the early 1990s. Has the distinctive character of the Sweden model been thoroughly lost? This chapter considers the historical evolution of welfare policies in Sweden from the standpoint of the 'idea' theory. In recent years, 'idea' has been valued as one of the most important theoretical concepts related to the transformation of welfare policies. After 'power resource theory' explained the process of welfare state formation, 'historical institutionalism' appeared as a theory in the age of retrenchment (Pierson 1994). Historical institutionalism, however, does not appear to sufficiently explain institutional changes because of its extended emphasis on structural determinism or path-dependency. The notion of 'idea' additionally implies that a new path is produced by active political actors. I begin by briefly surveying some existing studies on the concept of 'idea.'
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