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From competition state to competition states?

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The perceived global and demographic upheavals of the last 30 years have fuelled fierce debate as to whether many developed countries still have a welfare state, and if not, what they now have in its place. Such a controversial debate is marked by the most fragile consensus; advanced nations have begun to depart from the trajectories they followed during what has been termed the 'golden age' of welfare states. The competition state thesis has featured prominently amongst the more pessimistic accounts of the modern welfare state. This extreme view of the relationship amongst globalisation, the welfare state and the nation state, suggests that the welfare state no longer exists, having been succeeded by the competition state. Such an assertion sat well with the 'crisis literature' that surrounded the welfare state during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The privileged position held by the competition state thesis within this literature may owe much to a primarily theoretical body of work to date. This has left many questions unanswered, such as: can the competition state be measured? What does such measurement tell us about the competition state? And, is there more than one type of competition state? This article attempts to furnish the theoretical claims of the competition state thesis with data from a variety of sources, most notably the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This data have been used to index 25 countries in terms of their 'competition stateness' providing a fresh perspective with which to view the claims of the competition state thesis. This article represents the first, tentative steps towards fully operationalising and measuring the competition state and interestingly, uncovers two seemingly distinct forms of the competition state.
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Keywords: Z-scores; competition state; index; welfare regimes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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