Publication Date

April 2018


John Bonin, Gilbert Skillman


College of Social Studies


English (United States)


This thesis argues that welfare states across diverse advanced political economies are converging in institutional makeup. In each case, welfare states? normative goals of social protection and de-commodifying labor market participation have been replaced with ones of expanding labor markets and bolstering employers? bargaining power within them. The thesis lays out a working hypothesis of institutional change which theorizes that a systemic ?logic of post-industrialism? has motivated firms and their representative associations to agitate for welfare state retrenchment. They are theorized to do so both through frontal challenges to benefit levels and eligibility criteria, and through indirect industrial relations strategies that weaken the power of organized labor to act as a countervailing force to resist retrenchment. The working hypothesis is then examined in light of two detailed case studies, which highlight the crucial role of firms in spurring welfare state retrenchment with respect to old age pensions in the United States and unemployment insurance in Germany.



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