Key Features of Four State Traditions

  Anglo-Saxon Germanic French Scandinavian
Is there a legal basis for the "State"? No Yes Yes Yes
State-society relations pluralistic organicist antagonistic organicist
Form of political organization limited federalist integral/ organic federalist jacobin, "one and indivisible" decentralized unitary
Basis of policy style incrementalist "muddling through" legal corporatist legal technocratic consensual
Form of decentralization "State power" (US); local government (UK) cooperative federalism regionalized unitary state strong local autonomy
Dominant approach to discipline of public administration political science/ sociology public law public law public law (Sweden); organization theory (Norway)
Countries UK; US; Canada (but not Quebec); Ireland Germany; Austria; Netherlands; Spain (after 1978); Belgium (after 1988) France; Italy; Spain (until 1978); Portugal; Quebec; Greece; Belgium (until 1988) Sweden, Norway, Denmark

Source: Loughlin, J. 1994. "Nation, State and Region in Western Europe." In L. Beckemans, ed., Culture: The Building-Stone of Europe, 2004. Brussels: Presses Interuniversitaires

quoted from: Peters, Guy: Administrative Traditions; December 2000; on: The World Bank Group (ed.):  Administrative & Civil Service Reform; here: - 26.10.2003

Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism

The most common conceptualisation of welfare regimes had been presented by Gøsta Esping-Andersen (The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism; Cambridge: Polity Press; 1990 - see here for a presentation of the concept).

As point of departure we can draw on the following definition of a regime:

A regime is understood as a particular constellation of social, political and economic arrangements which tend to nurture a particular welfare system, which in turn supports a particular pattern of stratification, and thus feeds back into its own stability.

(Peter Taylor-Gooby: The Response of Government: Fragile Convergence? In: Vic George/Peter Taylor-Gooby (Eds.) European Welfare Policy. Squaring the Welfare Circle; Houndmills Macmillan Press Ltd., 1996: 199 ff.; here: 200)


The central element of the approach employed by Esping-Andersen is the commodification/decommodification-thesis:

De-commodification occurs when a service is rendered as a matter of right and when a person can maintain a livelihood without reliance on the market.

(Esping-Andersen; op.cit.)

Summarising Esping-Andersen’s analysis we can draw the following table with the characteristics of the three different regimes:

Type of welfare Regime



Social Democratic


Work ethic stigma

Rights according to class and status

Equality, universalism of high standards


Means tested assistance

Private insurance backed by state

State = first line of support; high level of benefits


Strengthen market

Strengthen civil society, limit market

Fusion welfare and work, full employment





Class implications

Middle class suspicious of state

Class maintained but stabilised

Middle class wooed from market to state

Country example

USA, Canada, Australia, UK

Austria, France, Germany, Italy




Main criticism concern


Neglect of women and their role in contemporary societies as safeguards of reproduction by undertaking familial care work, thus making the male breadwinner-model of basically all three regimes possible, at all;


Neglect of the role and function of NGOs as part and parcel of the respective regimes;


Neglect of specific phenomenon’s of countries as in particular Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – in some cases these countries are grouped as a regime on their own;


Neglect of socialist or any other fundamental alternatives.