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Explaining Gender Regimes of Welfare State Formation: A Plea for Gendered Discursive Institutionalism
Södertörn University, School of Gender, Culture and History, Gender studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8084-2045
2008 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Feminist scholars have provided us with an array of analytical perspectives on the comparative analysis of  welfare states. However despite the reachness of feminist scholarship in that field, it is also marked by a clear limitation. Feminist research focused, above all, on gender-specific contents and outputs of social policies. Much more widely neglected is the question of how country-specific differences may be explained, and whether gender contributed to the politics that created different welfare state regimes. There is one exeption however: scholars working within the tradition of historical institutionalism such as Theda Skocpol, Ann Orloff and Diane Sainsbury have made important efforts in order to explain the early formation of gendered welfare states.

The aim of this paper is both theoretical and empirical. First it explores the contribution of gender sensitive historical institutionalism for the explanation of gendered welfare states regimes. In contrast to the way that this approach has frequently been understood, I do not see institutionalism’s major contribution simply as adding on a new set of variables – the variables of state capacity and structure – as it suggested within the policy analysis aproach launched by Amy Mazur und Dorothy Stetson. Rather, the central new insight that institutionalism imparts to comparative politics comes from its reflexive perspective on  the political. This goes hand in hand with a concept of configurative causation acknowledging that political developments are contextual, relational, and process-oriented. A critical review of feminist historical institutionalism reveals one important limitation of its conceptual framwork however as it reduces “gender” to “women”,  to be more precise: to the impact of women´s movements on welfare state formation. I regard this reductionsm as the last vestige of determinism. Within institutionalism, to be sure, collective identities constitute an important point of reference, but since the processes of identity formation as such are not theorized any further, the precise connections linking institutions and the ability to act remain vague. In order to overcome this reductionism I propose to broaden institutionalism’s framework by formulating an approach based on interweaving historical institutionalism with discursive analysis. Such an integrated approach enables to conceptualize gender as relational and a relevant analytical category, even if womens agency might be deemed an irrelvant explanatory factor in specific national contexts.

The second aim of the paper is to demonstrate the fruitfulness of such an analytical approach in a comparative case study focusing on the emergence of gendered welfare state regime in Sweden and Germany. Sweden and Germany are ideal subjects for a comparative study of two countries. On the one hand, they present two similair cases of sociohistorical development. On the other hand, despite these similarities they produced quite different types of welfare states: Germany a conservative welfare state representing a strong male breadwinner and Sweden a social democratic, universalistic welfare state with a rather weak breadwinner model.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008.
National Category
Gender Studies Social Sciences Interdisciplinary History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-39116OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-39116DiVA, id: diva2:1358017
Conference
ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research) Joint Sessions, Workshop 12, Rennes/ France, April 11-16. 2008.
Available from: 2019-10-06 Created: 2019-10-06 Last updated: 2019-10-07Bibliographically approved

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Kulawik, Teresa

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Citation style
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