The Politics of Policy Change

Welfare, Medicare, and Social Security Reform in the United States

Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan

"This theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich book is an important contribution to the policy making literature, and will help readers understand why things change and why they stay the same."
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For generations, debating the expansion or contraction of the American welfare state has produced some of the nation's most heated legislative battles. Attempting social policy reform is both risky and complicated, especially when it involves dealing with powerful vested interests, sharp ideological disagreements, and a nervous public.

The Politics of Policy Change compares and contrasts recent developments in three major federal policy areas in the United States: welfare, Medicare, and Social Security. Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan argue that we should pay close attention to the role of ideas when explaining the motivations for, and obstacles to, policy change.

This insightful book concentrates on three cases of social policy reform (or attempted reform) that took place during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Béland and Waddan further employ their framework to help explain the meaning of the 2010 health insurance reform and other developments that have taken place during the Obama presidency. The result is a book that will improve our understanding of the politics of policy change in contemporary federal politics.

Table of Contents



1. Welfare Reform, 1996

2. Medicare Reform, 2003

3. The Failed Attempt at Social Security Privatization, 2005



"This theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich book is an important contribution to the policy making literature, and will help readers understand why things change and why they stay the same."—Choice

"A lively and readable synthesis of much of the vast social scientific and historical literature on the contemporary American welfare state. It is also an invaluable primer on recent developments in Medicare, welfare, and pension policy."—Perspectives on Politics

"In The Politics of Policy Change Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan provide an insightful analysis of the major reforms enacted in the past two decades in the United States—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicare, and Social Security. They describe the politics of policy reform in a lively and readable fashion and convincingly demonstrate why government is necessary to protect the well-being of all citizens."—Jill Quadagno, Florida State University, and author of One Nation, Uninsured: Why the US Has No National Health Insurance

"Béland and Waddan have pulled off a major coup and written what will soon be a standard work on America’s welfare state. Drawing on the insights of a generation of institutionally minded social scientists, their analysis of recent welfare, Social Security, and health care finance efforts both synthesizes and advances the discussion. It makes developments in these fields intelligible to subject specialists and the interested public alike."—Edward D. Berkowitz, professor of history, public policy, and public administration, The George Washington University


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About the Author

Daniel Béland is Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and a professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan campus. He has published eight other books, including What Is Social Policy? Understanding the Welfare State.

Alex Waddan is a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. He is the author of The Politics of Social Welfare and Clinton's Legacy? A New Democrat in Governance.

240 pp., 6 x 9

Mar 2012

240 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-884-6
Mar 2012

240 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-889-1
Mar 2012

American Governance and Public Policy series
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors

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