Combining Agency and Stewardship

Welfare reforms and accountability

Authored by: Thomas Schillemans

The Routledge Handbook to Accountability and Welfare State Reforms in Europe

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472470591
eBook ISBN: 9781315612713
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044208


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The past decades have witnessed large changes in the advanced welfare states of the Western world. Some of these changes involve substantive policy changes, while in many other respects changes in the welfare state, in essence, surmount to changes in the governance regimes of welfare (Jessop 1999; Bonoli 2005). The reforms in the welfare state have modified the ways in which central governments interact with the agencies delivering welfare services and have led to changes in entitlements, rights and procedures for citizens. Where the ‘old’ welfare state was very much about delivering social outcomes, or sometimes even about social engineering, as Larsson et al. (2012) provocatively put it, the reformed welfare state has adopted a much more procedural and structural focus. Contemporary welfare state policies often center on questions pertaining to the optimal governance of welfare regimes, in which strict responsibility for socially desirable outcomes is no longer the exclusive burden of states and elected politicians (Byrkjeflot et al. 2014). This development is fueled by the international retrenchment of the welfare state and ensuing blame games (Pierson 1996).

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