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Social Policy Review 24Analysis and debate in social policy, 2012$
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Majella Kilkey and Gaby Ramia

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781447304470

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447304470.001.0001

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Welfare retrenchment under Left and Right government leadership: towards a consolidated framework of analysis?

Welfare retrenchment under Left and Right government leadership: towards a consolidated framework of analysis?

Chapter:
(p.137) Seven Welfare retrenchment under Left and Right government leadership: towards a consolidated framework of analysis?
Source:
Social Policy Review 24
Author(s):

Stefan Kühner

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447304470.003.0008

This chapter aims to add to the literature on welfare retrenchment by consolidating prospect theoretical, party competition and veto player explanations into one framework of analysis. It tests this framework against comparative historical evidence of four Western European democracies, namely Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It suggests answers to the questions ‘why’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ policymakers engage in welfare retrenchment are indeed best considered jointly: looking at the ‘why’ question through ‘losses domains’ enables us to identify governments that are more likely to engage in “treacherous” welfare retrenchment, but falls short of telling us much about possible stumbling blocks to reform in political systems with multiple constitutional constraints. Considering party competition and particularly the strength of Left parties helps us to understand ‘when’ policymakers are likely to engage in unpopular welfare retrenchment, but fails to illuminate ‘how’ – or the mechanisms through which – welfare retrenchments are achieved, namely consensus seeking.

Keywords:   Welfare retrenchment, Blame avoidance, Prospect theory, Partisan competition, Veto players

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