Party Organization, Electoral Competition and Reform of Welfare State Generosity in OECD Countries, 1973-2002
Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
How to explain reform of the welfare state across countries and over time? In this paper, we draw on qualitative studies of welfare state reform and on the party behaviour literature to develop a new theoretical model of welfare state reform. Taking the cabinet as our unit of analysis, we hypothesize that strong internal party democracy induces a cabinet to policy-seeking behavior, and strong electoral incentives induce a cabinet to office-seeking behavior. When the first condition is present, a cabinet’s ideological position as presented in the cabinet party’s or parties’ manifesto is the best predictor of welfare state reform; when the second condition is present, the cabinet is more likely to adapt its policies to changing economic and political circumstances. These two conditions make up the cabinet’s political opportunity structure and explain why it decides to reform, or not to reform, the welfare state. We put forward ways to operationalize the variables in this model and illustrate the model’s empirical usefulness by examining the reform activities of seven Dutch cabinets between 1973 and 2002.
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