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7.5 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

What Does Globalization Have to Do with the Erosion of Welfare States? Sorting Out the Issues

1997 Andrew Martin


Is it really true that the economic processes described as globalization are eroding West European and North Ameri­ can welfare states (WS) ? This paper is a first step in a project aimed at answering the question. Focusing on conflict­ ing arguments about the economic mechanisms which generate pressures on WS, it groups them into three answers to the title question: globalization has everything, nothing, or something to do with it. Tentatively concluding that the third answer, that domestic and international economic mechanisms do interact in specific ways to strain WS, it sets the stage for the second stage of the project. That is to analyze the political mechanisms shaping the policy re­ sponses to those strains and perhaps themselves contributing to those strains. To expore the issues to be addressed in this second step. a brief preliminary exploration of recent social policy patterns suggests that domestic political fac­ tors go a long way toward explaining them without much recourse to globalization, especially in the U.S. but also, if to a lesser extent, in Western Europe.