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There and back again: convergence to the competition state plan

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JournalPolicy Studies
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Nov 2012
DatePublished (current) - 2012
Early online date12/11/12
Original languageEnglish


The competition state thesis was first penned nearly 20 years ago against a backdrop of Thatcherism transitioning to Blairism. It describes a scenario in which advanced welfare states, stripped of resources and legitimacy, are disempowered to such an extent that they are replaced by the competition state. It is posited that no longer is the state primarily concerned with decommodifying citizens. Marked by lower social spending, lower tax, a reliance on active labour market programmes and governance through flexible networks consisting of state and non-state actors, institutions and organisations, the competition state is fundamentally geared towards ensuring the conditions for a successful global market economy. Previous work argued that empirical analysis of the competition state suggested that the competition state took more than one form but that it was a very real phenomenon. This paper seeks to query whether such conclusions can be maintained when a longitudinal approach is taken. Evidence would suggest yet again that there is no single approach to social policy; however, it would appear that, for all the diversity that exists within the political economy of welfare states, the impact of the competition state is always present.

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