Dismantling the Welfare State?: Reagan, Thatcher and the Politics of Retrenchment

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Cambridge University Press, 1994 - Political Science - 213 pages
This book offers a careful analysis of the politics of social policy in an era of austerity and conservative governance. Focusing on the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Pierson provides a compelling explanation for the welfare state's durability and for the few occasions in which each government was able to achieve significant cutbacks. Pierson's account draws on recent work in "historical institutionalism" and rational-choice theory to fashion an important argument about contemporary policy-making. The politics of retrenchment, he argues, is fundamentally different from that of welfare state expansion. The programs of the modern welfare state - the "policy legacies" of previous governments - generally proved resistant to reform. Hemmed in by the political supports that have developed around mature social programs, conservative opponents of the welfare state were successful only when they were able to divide the supporters of social programs, compensate those negatively affected, or hide what they were doing from potential critics. This book will be of interest to those in the fields of comparative public policy and political economy as well as to those concerned with the development of the modern welfare state.
 

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Contents

The logic of retrenchment
13
Interests institutions and policy feedback
27
The politics of programmatic retrenchment
51
Retrenchment in a core sector oldage pensions
53
Retrenchment in a vulnerable sector housing policy
74
Retrenchment in a residualized sector incomesupport policy
100
The embattled welfare state
129
The impact of conservative governments
131
Social policy in an era of austerity
164
Notes
183
Index
211
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