A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 11: Social policy regimes in the developing world

Ian Gough


My aim in this chapter is to reconceptualize the welfare regime paradigm developed within Northern social policy studies to understand the nature and diversity of social policies in the South. Midgley (Chapter 10) has rightly criticized the relevance of the welfare regime paradigm to social policy dilemmas in much of the world, so this approach may seem perverse and will need defending. The intention is certainly not simply to ‘apply’ it to the South, but to radically recast it. My basic reason is that it offers the way out of a classic dilemma in understanding social policy and social development across the world. By developing a variegated middle-range model it avoids both over-generalization and over-specificity. A regime approach can recognize, on the one hand, the commonalities across the countries and regions of the South, while on the other hand identifying systematic qualitatively distinct patterns within the South. It can also provide a bridge between thinking about social policy in the North and the South, without imposing Northern frameworks and solutions on the rest of the world. In adopting a regime approach we are placing ourselves within the historical-institutional school of social research. This attempts to steer a middle way between teleological or functionalist approaches (both modernization and Marxist) on the one hand, and post-modern approaches emphasizing uniqueness and diversity on the other.

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