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Mares: Strategic alliances and social policy reform

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Mares. 2000. Strategic alliances and social policy reform: Unemployment insurance in France and Germany. Politics and Society 29 (June).

In Brief

Mares wishes to demonstrate that the "cross-cutting alliances" between classes that the literature claims created the modern welfare state are underspecified; often, it comes out sounding like labor groups found patrons in higher classes who supported their cause. Mares wants to show that these alliances were often strategic, not expressive; both classes agreed to their second-best preference to avoid the worst outcome, mutual intransigence (238).

Argument

There are four ways of providing unemployment insurance: Doing nothing, direct assistance by the state to people, a contributary insurance program where employers, the state, and employees all contribute, and a Ghent system (in which the state subsidizes voluntary unemployment insurance organizations, usually organized through unions).

Mares seeks to explain why Germany and France came to such different policies for unemployment assistance. She argues against assuming that it was the working class that won its top choice, a Ghent system (see below). Instead, she argues that everyone got their second choice. For large firms, their second choice was a contributary program. For small firms, their second choice was either direct assistance by the state to the unemployed or Ghent. For unions, their first choice was either a contributary program or Ghent, with direct assistance their second choice.

Mares wishes to demonstrate that the "cross-cutting alliances" between classes that the literature claims created the modern welfare state are underspecified; often, it comes out sounding like labor groups found patrons in higher classes who supported their cause. Mares wants to show that these alliances were often strategic, not expressive; both classes agreed to their second-best preference to avoid the worst outcome, mutual intransigence (238).

The table on page 229 makes fairly clear where Mares is going.