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date: 03 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the validity of the dominant approaches to periodization in several respects and shows their shortcomings. It then offers a systematic discussion of measurement concepts used in comparative welfare state research and explores how the use of periodization criteria gleaned from this literature has influenced the understanding of welfare state development since 1945. Six different types of periodization, each based on a specific set of criteria, may be distinguished: the macro level of context factors; social expenditure trends; the internal structure of social programmes; the distribution of welfare production between state, market, family, and civil society, and governance types of social policy; the outcome of social policy interventions; and the public legitimation of social policy and the welfare state. The global financial crisis of 2008/9 might have a huge impact on welfare state development and may yet usher in a new period. Based on a theoretical approach that highlights economic context factors, this expectation seems particularly plausible, given that the crisis represents no less than the most severe recession of the post-war era.

Keywords: welfare state development, post-war era, periodization, global financial crisis, context factors, social expenditure, social programmes, public legitimation, social policy

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