Ideas, Private Institutions, and American Welfare State ‘Exceptionalism’


Daniel Béland , Jacob S. Hacker

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Béland, Daniel, Jacob S. Hacker (2004) “Ideas, Private Institutions, and American Welfare State ‘Exceptionalism,’” International Journal of Social Welfare 13(1): 42-54. DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-6866.2004.00296.x
Traditional theories of welfare state development divide into two camps: societal accounts and institutional accounts. The aim of the present article is to amend and enrich the institutional approach to US social policy by reconsidering key aspects of the genesis of the American welfare state: 1) showing that concepts such as 'policy feedback' and 'path dependence' need to be extended to encompass the effect of private social policies; and 2) taking policy paradigms and agenda setting more seriously than is the norm in institutional scholarship. The empirical analysis is divided into two parts. The first part explores the activities of the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL) in the decade beginning in 1910 and the genesis of Social Security in the 1930s, while the second part examines the effect of the private benefit developments on policy choices between 1935 and 1965.
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