The ‘Dependent Variable Problem’ in Comparative Analysis
Edited by Jochen Clasen and Nico A. Siegel
Chapter 8: Levels and Levers of Conditionality: Measuring Change Within Welfare States
Jochen Clasen and Daniel Clegg INTRODUCTION Bold claims are often made about the current development of welfare states, both by critical theorists of social policies and by the politicians that are reforming them. But characterizing the nature and magnitude of the changes that welfare states have undergone in recent decades seems to pose major problems for empirical – and particularly comparative empirical – analysis. The lively debate concerning the range of factors that may result in (more or less) change in social protection arrangements – including most importantly structural socioeconomic forces, changing power resources, new ideas, party competition, institutions, policy legacies and path dependence (for overviews, see van Kersbergen, 1995; Amenta, 2003) – is complicated by the fact that analysts struggle to agree on what, exactly, is the real character and extent of change to be explained. Controversies and contradictory readings abound in the comparative social policy literature. Have we, as some maintain, witnessed a ‘paradigm shift’ in the techniques and strategies for managing social risks, or merely a series of adjustments at the margins? And if recent reforms are leading to the emergence of a distinctively new ‘type’ or ‘form’ of social policy, is this equally true in all developed welfare states, or only (to date) in some? While in social sciences there is always scope for diﬀering interpretations, convincingly and consistently answering these kinds of questions arguably turns ﬁrst and foremost on the identiﬁcation of the most appropriate data for examination. Diﬀerently put, the key challenge for assessing the...
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