The Politics of Social Policy Reform

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Given the global, socio-demographic and fiscal challenges to welfare states, social policy reforms is as pressing as it is difficult to achieve in today’s advanced economies and democratic systems.  The study of the politics of social policy reform has become one of the key areas of research within international comparative welfare state analysis. Welfare state regimes or the specifics of social policy design, especially in Europe and OECD countries, are understood to result largely from political ‘choices’, albeit constrained by institutional legacies and political systems. Politicians advancing welfare reforms find that social policies are often very popular and organized interests defend acquired social rights. The analysis of the politics of social policy reform includes studies of the roles of policy-makers, organized interests, public opinion, and public discourse. These analyses are often comparative across countries and over time.

Key areas of research include the political economy of welfare state reform, in particularly the role of party politics, organized interests and public opinion in relation to social policy reforms. Research expertise includes in-depth knowledge of British, European, and OECD countries. Recent research has focused on occupational welfare (including business interests and corporate social responsibilities), ongoing pension privatization and marketization in Europe, and the role of public opinion and organized interests in social policy reforms in Britain and Germany. Questions of social citizenship, cohesion and resilience in different societies are also investigated. In addition, education policy and social investment strategies are studied in the relation to policy- making, governance and accountability. Advancing the comparative methods for cross-national welfare state analysis is also a long-standing concern of the research grouping (e.g. ESRC’s Cross-National Comparative Methods Research Initiative). 

Current projects

Crisis Corporatism or Corporatism in Crisis? Social Concertation and Social Pacts in Europe (in cooperation with MZES, University of Mannheim and J. Timo Weishaupt, University of Göttingen). Read more here.

Welfare State Reforms from Below: Linking Individual Attitudes and Organised Interests in Europe (in cooperation with SFB 884, Political Economy of Reform, University of Mannheim). Read more here.

The Political Impact of Ageing on the Economy (John Fell Fund). Read more here.

Past projects
Selected publications

Donoghue, Matthew (2016) "Cohesion as ‘Common Sense’: Everyday narratives of Community and Cohesion in New Labour’s Britain", Politics 36: 3 262-276. doi: 10.1177/0263395715620811

Ebbinghaus, Bernhard and Elias Naumann (eds.) (2017) Welfare State Reforms Seen from Below: Comparing Public Attitudes and Organized Interests in Britain and Germany. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming).

Ferretjans, Marina and Rebecca Surender (2017) "Enhancing Global Cooperation in Social Development", James Midgley and Manohar Pawar ed.,Future Directions in Social Development. Palgrave Macmillan

Naczyk, Marek (2016) "Creating French-Style Pension Funds: Business, Labour and the Battle over Patient Capital", Journal of European Social Policy 26: 3 205-218. doi:

Seeleib-Kaiser, M., Saunders, A., and Naczyk, M. (2012). 'Shifting the Public-Private Mix: A New Dualization of Welfare', in P. Emmenegger, S. Häusermann, B. Palier and M. Seeleib-Kaiser (eds.), The Age of Dualization: The Changing Face of Inequality in Deindustrializing Societies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 151-175.

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