Comparative social scientists have developed various arguments about the determinants of social policies, especially those connected with twentieth-century “welfare states.” Structure-functionalists argue that the social policies of modern nations necessarily converge due to an underlying logic of industrialism, while neo-Marxists treat such policies as state responses to the social reproduction requirements of advanced capitalism. Yet most students of social policies are more attuned to history and politics. Concentrating on two dozen or fewer industrial capitalist democracies, many scholars have explored the alternative ways in which democratic political processes have helped to create programs and expand social expenditures. For a fuller range of nations past and present, scholars have also asked how ties to the world-economy, patterns of geopolitical competition, and processes of transnational cultural modelling have influenced social policies. Finally, there is now considerable interest in the independent impact of states on social policymaking. States may be sites of autonomous official initiatives, and their institutional structures may help to shape the political processes from which social policies emerge. In turn, social policies, once enacted and implemented, themselves transform politics. Consequently, the study over time of “policy feedbacks” has become one of the most fruitful current areas of research on states and social policies.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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