Geopolitical formation of Welfare State Clusters


In his book – “The three worlds of welfare capitalism” (1990), Esping Andersen states that “structuralist thesis has difficulties explaining why government social policy only emerged 50 and sometimes even 100 years after the traditional community was effectively destroyed” (Andersen 1990: 13). If we take Mancur Olson (1990) approach and call state as a “stationary bandit” then it will be clear why it took so long for the state to form a social policy. The elite ruling has no incentive to give social security but they do so if their “tax revenue” faces a threat. You need to provide securities (pension, benefits) in order to keep them working. Giving too much security benefits takes the “barriers” which leads to “political unity among workers” (ibid: 12). Also, he says that” old ruling classes formed welfare states who, be they conservative autocrats or bourgeois liberals, should be regarded as the true architects of the modern welfare state’s foundations (ibid: 108)” which means we should question its naïve formation by labors. This assumption does not mean labor movements did not happen. But we should doubt movements that actually formed social welfare system because “status privileges” of trade unions and left parties as Andersen argues made them “generally unable (or unwilling) to diminish civil servants’ advantages” (ibid: 123) It is visible that all states had the people with the same way of interests in the society. But why they differ? I propose political objections and the geopolitical situation created different welfare states.

The liberal states, particularly, the US and UK have a long history of liberal system formation. The idea was established in order to make a non-stop development of society and especially state itself. It indicates how liberal states try to keep the existent capitalist structure. Even in those countries people demanded the change of the social policy but unlikely from welfare states Anglo –Saxons countries resisted the socialist movement and transfer to the welfare regimes (ibid: 31) and it happened because of the state interests concerning international politics. If we think the US and its power relations in the international arena then it will be clear why the US is a pure liberal state. In order to develop continuously, the society should not rest in the social security as it “thwart markets and discourage labor supply” (ibid: 97).

On the other hand, the Central European states have been traditional power driven states which they do not have many differences from liberal states. Their politics are connected to the European geopolitics. In this sense, in order to compete with the powerful neighbors you need to be powerful and power comes from the working people. Therefore conservative states took harmonized ways – using both laissez-faire and moderate security (Bismarck policy). As too much social security may hamper the regional ambition of the state. I think conservative countries had regional political power, therefore, they are settled in the middle. Although attacks came from conservative states to decommodification (ibid: 41) it happened because ruling elites feared there would be powerful people who may challenge their powers.

When it comes to Scandinavian countries the geopolitical approach becomes more visible. Being apart from the world conflicts and especially, European power relations makes them more become introverted and think about the society itself. These states are also powerful but their non-attendance in the regional or global power relations made them more socialist.

We can see how the empirical evidence from Jensen about how states transfer to the social services is limited and differ from state to state. For example, how Scandinavian countries raise the social care in order to help women to find work and transfer wages to the state but in conservative and liberal states it is in limited extent which differs because of their ideology. (Conservatives rest on familialism, liberals on including to the market). Therefore, it is the political will that regulates and especially differ in their regulations. Although Ferragina and Kaiser (2011) prove the three clusters of welfare states they also miss to view it from a political perspective.

To sum up, I tried to explain welfare state cluster from the geopolitical and political aspect. I believe that in all states the development starts from the interest of “stationary bandit” but their geopolitical position led them to different directions.


Esping-Andersen, G. (1990). The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity/Princeton University Press (248 p).

Ferragina, E. & Seeleib-Kaiser, M. (2011). “Welfare regime debate: past, present, futures?” Policy and Politics.

Jensen, C. (2008). “Worlds of welfare services and transfers”. Journal of European Social Policy.

Olson, Mancur. 1993. Democracy, Dictatorship and Development.” American Political Science Review 87(3):567-576.


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