1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Governance (2000 - 2009), Social Policy and Development (2000 - 2009)

Democratization and Social Policy Development in Advanced Capitalist Societies (Draft)



In a number of works stretching back twenty five years, Stephens and his co-authors have argued that similar social, political, and historical factors are behind the development of political democracy and generous and redistributive social policy (Stephens 1979, 1989, 1995; Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens 1992, Huber, Rueschemeyer, and Stephens 1993, 1997; Huber, Ragin, and Stephens 1993; Huber and Stephens, 1999, 2001; Stephens and Kümmel 2002, Bradley et al. 2003). While the factors leading to democracy and generous social policy are not identical, they are sufficiently similar to suggest that a relatively unified theory can explain both sets of social change. In this essay, the author reconsiders the development of democracy and social policy in western advanced capitalist democracies, primarily focusing on the period 1870 to 1950. Stephens extend the above work in three ways. For the historical development of democracy, he answers the leading critiques of capitalist development and democracy and adjusts the previous explanation of these developments accordingly. Second, most of Stephens work with Evelyne Huber on the development of welfare states has focused on post World War II period. Here the analysis of this earlier period is extended, relying heavily on Hick's (1999) award winning book, the only work, which covers all of the countries covered here. Third, in the analysis of the development of the welfare state, the author examines not only the extent to which democratization and social policy development shared common causes but also the extent to which they can be considered mutually reinforcing processes.

Following the analytic strategy of Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens, the author examines the universe of cases that fits the selection criteria, which are partly analytic and partly practical as the other possible cases are covered by other authors in the UNRISD project. The analytic criteria for choosing these countries has been that (1) they were developed capitalist democracies as of 1950, and (2) they were stable regimes (which we know only in retrospect). Given this papers focused on "western" societies, Japan and also Eastern Europe, which are covered in other essays, are excluded. There is a second analytic reason to exclude Eastern Europe. As Ertman (1998) has pointed out, the dynamics of democratization are different in the countries, which were created out of the ashes of the imperial regimes of Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. Thus, Finland and Austria are excluded from the analysis as well as the Eastern European states which fell under Soviet domination after World War II. For a similar reason, Ireland is excluded. Portugal, Greece, and Spain, which were not stable democracies in 1950 and are also covered in another essay, are also excluded. The countries included in the analysis are 10 countries in Western Europe; Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom; and the four British settler colonies; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Democratization and breakdown in Austria, Finland, and Spain are covered in Stephens (1989); Austria and Spain in Rueschemeyer, Stephens and Stephens (1992); and Austria, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, and Spain in Stephens and Kümmel (2002). Social policy development in Austria and Finland is covered in Huber and Stephens (2001).

The period is chosen for analytic reasons. At the initial date, none of these countries had initiated any of the social policies, which are generally thought to constitute the modern welfare state. In Europe, only Switzerland was democratic by the conventional definitions of democracy. For France, Switzerland, Britain, and the British settler colonies, the author do extend the analysis of democratization back into the nineteenth century since developments in that period are an essential part of the explanation of the political outcome. In the initial two sections of the essay, Stephens present the theories of democratic development and social policy development that he and his collaborating researchers represents. The third and fourth sections cover the development of democracy in Europe and the British settler colonies respectively. The fifth, sixth, and seventh sections cover the development of social policy in both regions up to 1920, in the interwar period, and the immediate post World War II period respectively.