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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article presents an overview of the retrenchment debate. It reviews Paul Pierson's path-breaking ‘new politics of the welfare state’ thesis, which argues that the politics of welfare retrenchment operates according to fundamentally different rules from the politics of welfare expansion, making retrenchment exceedingly difficult. The article also describes the various ways in which budget-cutters have sought to overcome these obstacles to retrenchment, according to Pierson. Subsequent revisions to Pierson's framework are then discussed: one analyses claims that retrenchment may take different forms and be more extensive than Pierson initially acknowledged, while another presents arguments that retrenchment may occur via political processes different from those emphasized by Pierson. It specifically claims that there has been more retrenchment than Dismantling the Welfare State acknowledges. Dismantling the Welfare State has recast the collective understanding of welfare retrenchment. Pierson notes that welfare restructuring is not confined to retrenchment.

Keywords: welfare retrenchment, new politics, Paul Pierson, Dismantling the Welfare State, welfare expansion

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