Printed at: 3/24/2017  –  11:54:22 PM

Limits to Globalization: Welfare States and the World Economy

By: Elmar Rieger and Stephan Leibfried


In this exciting new book, Rieger and Leibfried argue persuasively for the need to understand developments in welfare and social provision alongside the processes of globalization. In the two decades following the Second World War, the massive expansion of the welfare state system arguably allowed Western governments to expose their societies to uncontrollable external risks associated with the deregulated global economic environment. The authors contend that the combination of changes in welfare and technological innovation provided the necessary conditions for globalization by limiting some of the more harmful effects of economic change.

Today, the developed welfare state is in need of reform for various endogenous reasons. If such reforms are to work effectively, however, Rieger and Leibfried claim that governments must take into account the complex ways in which domestic social policy and external economic policy are interconnected. They maintain that the present climate provides a unique opportunity for policy-makers to engage constructively with globalization, warning that failure to think creatively about welfare in this context could result in governments falling back into an unhelpful and out-moded protectionist stance.

Drawing on case studies from Germany and the United States, Rieger and Leibfried show how welfare reform has worked in practice in the Western world. Contrasting these findings with the experience of East Asian states, they go on to argue that whilst welfare systems may appear to be similar, they function in different ways depending on the cultural setting. These cultural differences may condition the way in which welfare state regimes are able to mitigate the effects of globalization upon particular societies and economies.

Top of Page

First Edition
Publication Dates ROW:
May 2003
Publication Dates US:
Jul 2003
Publication Dates Aus & NZ:
May 2003

247 x 171 mm
9.70 x 6.70 in
416 pages

* Exam copies only available to lecturers for whom the book may be suitable as a course text.
Please note: Sales representation and distribution for Polity titles is provided by John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Top of Page


'This book breaks new intellectual ground showing how the modern welfare state has served as the midwife for globalization. It offers a powerful warning to those who take globalization for granted. What the midwife nutured, she may also help strangle. In the best tradition of social science. "Limits" demonstrates how mastery of the details illuminates the big picture of a world poised between renewal and disaster.' Hugh Heclo, George Mason University, Virginia

'This is an important book in three ways. It is synoptic in providing and interrelated explanation of the post-war rise of welfare capitalism, the pressures of globalization and subsequent welfare state reforem. It is synthetic in its sensitive interweaving of a wide range of literature. And it is illuminating in its depth analysis especially of the US and German cases.' David Soskice, Duke University, North Carolina

'By locating the dilemmas of contemporary social in a broader context at once historical, comparatrive and cultural, this wide-ranging volume sets out the challenges facing policy-makers and scholars. The authors show that globalization is an opportunity and a threat. All interessted in the fate of welfare states and of open world markets will want to have this book on their shelves.' Peter A. Hall, Harvard University

Top of Page

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Non-Economic Preconditions of Globalization.

Chapter 2: Welfare State Mercantilism.

Chapter 3: Defensive Globalization in the Welfare State: Foreign Trade Policy and Social Policy in the US.

Chapter 4: Two Worlds of Welfare Democracy: Global Capitalism and Social Policy Reform in Germany and the US.

Chapter 5: The Welfare State and Social Policy in East Asia: Religion and Globalization.




Top of Page

Author Information

Elmar Rieger is Associate Professor and Stephan Leibfried Professor for Political Science, both at the Centre for Social Policy Research, Bremen University

Top of Page