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Korpi and Palme: New politics and class politics in the context of austerity and globalization

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Korpi and Palme. 2003. New politics and class politics in the context of austerity and globalization: Welfare state regime. American Political Science Review 97: 425-446.

The relevance of socioeconomic class and of class-related parties for policymaking is a recurring issue in the social sciences. The "new politics" perspective holds that in the present era of austerity, class-based parties once driving welfare state expansion have been superseded by powerful new interest groups of welfare-state clients capable of largely resisting retrenchment pressures emanating from postindustrial forces. We argue that retrenchment can fruitfully be analyzed as distributive conflict involving a remaking of the early postwar social contract based on the full employment welfare state, a conflict in which partisan politics and welfare-state institutions are likely to matter. Pointing to problems of conceptualization and measurement of the dependent variable in previous research, we bring in new data on the extent of retrenchment in social citizenship rights and show that the long increase in social rights has been turned into a decline and that significant retrenchment has taken place in several countries. Our analyses demonstrate that partisan politics remains significant for retrenchment also when we take account of contextual indictors, such as constitutional veto points, economic factors, and globalization.