Have globalization pressures and neo-liberal ideas led to convergence in how countries respond to welfare claimants? Through ethnographic case studies of social assistance offices in the United States, Germany and Sweden, Agents of the Welfare State demonstrates persistent diversity in how states structure needs assessment and activation efforts, contrasting a bureaucratic, flat-grant system in the U.S., with German and Swedish programs in which individualized assessment is a core organizational task. It shows how responsiveness in these European programs is institutionalized through nationally distinct legal foundations, professional traditions, and resource networks, while revealing how resource scarcities threaten to erode these capabilities.
Christopher J. Jewell received his J.D. from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and his Ph.D. from Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program. His interests include organizational reform and its evaluation in public service programs; cross-national comparisons of social policy and administration; and the impact of evidence in health policy processes. He has published in a variety of policy and administration journals including Law & Policy, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Social Service Review, and Administration & Society. He is currently a research fellow at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Agents of the Welfare State is not about the usual grand ‘worlds of welfare capitalism’ but about the soldiers on the front-line. It is about social case workers in action: ‘entitlement scholars’ in Germany, ‘consultation experts’ in Sweden, and ‘eligibility technicians’ in the United States. Jewell compares welfare delivery and ‘activation’ schemes in these three countries, the first time anyone has attempted an international comparative study of the welfare state at the street-level. In Agents of the Welfare State, Jewell brings us face to face with some of the real worlds of welfare, replete with all their national quirks and local idiosyncrasies.”
–Stephan Leibfried, The University of Bremen
“As workfare and activation policies spread across the globe, Christopher Jewell offers a much-needed comparative examination of how these policies operate in practice. This book adopts a ‘street-level’ perspective, examining activation practices in selected local offices in the U.S., Sweden, and Germany. While formal policies seem to be moving toward convergence, Jewell questions whether that is also true for activation in practice. Jewell’s comparative, street-level approach identifies important administrative and political factors that distinguish activation practices in different national settings. His approach makes for a highly readable and valuable work of comparative social policy and administration scholarship. It should be of great interest to those concerned with current shifts in welfare policy and how they reconstitute state-citizen relationships at the street-level.”
–Evelyn Brodkin, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago