Welfare retrenchment under left and right government leadership : towards a consolidated framework of analysis?

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Book chapter

Source Publication

Social policy review, 24 : Analysis and debate in social policy, 2012

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Policy Press


Welfare retrenchment, Blame avoidance, Prospect theory, Partisan competition, Veto players


This chapter aims to add to the literature on welfare retrenchment by consolidating prospect theoretical, party competition and veto player explanations into one framework of analysis. It tests this framework against comparative historical evidence of four Western European democracies, namely Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands. It suggests answers to the questions ‘why’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ policymakers engage in welfare retrenchment are indeed best considered jointly: looking at the ‘why’ question through ‘losses domains’ enables us to identify governments that are more likely to engage in “treacherous” welfare retrenchment, but falls short of telling us much about possible stumbling blocks to reform in political systems with multiple constitutional constraints. Considering party competition and particularly the strength of Left parties helps us to understand ‘when’ policymakers are likely to engage in unpopular welfare retrenchment, but fails to illuminate ‘how’ – or the mechanisms through which – welfare retrenchments are achieved, namely consensus seeking.



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Copyright © The Policy Press/Social Policy Association 2012

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Additional Information

ISBN of the source publication: 9781447304470

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Recommended Citation

Kühner, S. (2012). Welfare retrenchment under left and right government leadership: Towards a consolidated framework of analysis? In M. Kilkey, G. Ramia, & K. Farnsworth (Eds.), Social policy review, 24: Analysis and debate in social policy, 2012 (pp. 137-163). Bristol: Policy Press. doi: 10.1332/policypress/9781447304470.003.0008