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The Social Construction of an Imperative: Why Welfare Reform Happened in Denmark and the Netherlands but Not in Germany

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

Robert Henry Cox
University of Oklahoma


This article seeks to explain why Denmark and the Netherlands made dramatic progress reforming their welfare systems in the 1990s and why Germany had a relatively slow start. Some possible explanations found to be incomplete are institutional differences in welfare programs, the uniqueness of circumstances (for example, German unification), and the balance of political power in governing institutions. An important part of the puzzle is an increasing perception of the need to reform that was more widespread in Denmark and the Netherlands. The social construction of an imperative to reform in these countries generated a political consensus that was elusive in Germany but that may be developing under Gerhard Schroder's government.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2001

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