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Edited by Patricia Kennett
Chapter 11: Structured Diversity: A Framework for Critically Comparing Welfare States?
Norman Ginsburg Introduction In an earlier attempt to clarify my own thinking on cross-national analysis of social policy I used the term ‘critical structured diversity’ to try to get a grip on the task (Ginsburg, 1992: 28). I suggested that comparativists have to consider the uniqueness of the social policies of particular nation-states in their diverse, historical and political contexts, while at the same time acknowledging that social policy is shaped by supranational economic, political and social ‘structures’. To many this may seem to be stating the completely obvious, but juggling a ‘national diversity’ and a ‘structural’ approach in practice is an almost impossible task, because, if interpreted purely they are incompatible, or at the very least, have quite different starting points. To this task I added the challenge of trying to develop a ‘critical’ approach, which perhaps interpreted rather narrowly meant a focus on the role of welfare states in shaping social divisions of race, class and gender. This chapter reviews and reﬂects upon the notion of structured diversity as a way of making sense of cross-national developments in social policy and the growing literature in this ﬁeld. We proceed by discussing mainstream and critical interpretations of structure and diversity, taken individually, before moving on to the possibilities of combining them, and using them critically. As a preliminary it is essential to reﬂect brieﬂy on what is being held up for cross-national consideration, that is, the dependent variable(s) under the heading of ‘social policy’ or...
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