Governing elites under pressure: Blame avoidance strategies and welfare state retrenchment

  • Markus HinterleitnerEmail author
  • Fritz Sager


This chapter makes conceptual progress on an important puzzle in the research on welfare state retrenchment: Are welfare states retrenched because governing elites are astute blame avoiders or because important parts of the electorate have come to believe in the austerity medicine prescribed by mainstream economists? Existing research is, by and large, ill placed to address this question because it treats blame avoidance as a latent variable that is neither measured nor empirically observed. To cast some light on this important puzzle, this chapter develops a comprehensive categorization of blame avoidance strategies that governing elites can employ to avoid electoral punishment for retrenchment. The categorization identifies the mechanics of particular strategies and yields insights into their applicability, empirical traces, and effects on voters. In so doing, it can guide future research on the causal determinants of successful welfare state retrenchment. Progress on this puzzle promises important insights into how the governing elites of modern capitalist democracies juggle to reconcile domestic demands and supranational constraints.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kompetenzzentrum für Public ManagementUniversität BernBernSwitzerland

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