Proposal preview

Open Economy Forces and the Welfare State – Investigating the Links between Globalization and Social Spending

Two of the single largest political and economic developments over the 20th century have been the opening up of economies and the growth of the welfare state. Particularly the post WWII-period saw increased openness to trade and increased social spending occurring at the same time. It has been proposed that the former has affected the latter, for instance in small trade-dependent states where government-funded public social security and unemployment benefits were a way of compensating those most exposed in an open world market (Katzenstein, 1985). The actual impact of globalization and economic openness on social spending and the growth of the welfare state has however been contested and has up until now yielded conflicting empirical results (Rodrik, 1997; Brady et al, 2005; Epifani & Gancia, 2009; Espuelas, 2012).

Hitherto, the history of the welfare state has been one that is mostly told from a national point of view, where domestic political and economic factors and experiences have the lion’s share of the attention and explanatory power (Huberman, 2012). This session aims to analyze the welfare state from a more international perspective, and it will do so by looking at open economy forces such as international trade, the flow of capital, and migration. Such forces may create incentives and opportunities for increased social spending and a more efficient tax-system. The flow of goods, capital, and people, might also present threats and dangers to the systems of social assistance, health care, pensions, elder care, and education, and put them under increased pressure. The session will combine quantitative and qualitative approaches applied to cross-national studies as well as single-nation cases spanning various different political economies. We expect to find interesting differences in the responses from the national systems to forces of globalization, while at the same time being able to draw generalizable conclusions from a large and varied sample over a long period of time.

A call for papers is open where we will consider up to three papers. Your paper may concern specific country-cases or cross-country studies, specifically defined sub-studies regarding social spending and openness, or more broadly defined studies within the overall theme of the session. We especially invite cases and studies not already covered by the session. Send an abstract (max one page) and affiliation before January 19th to the organizer ( Decision on accepted papers will be notified before January 26th. Please include “WEHC Boston” in the email headline.


  • Henric Häggqvist, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,, Sweden

Session members

  • Peter H Lindert, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics,
  • Jari Eloranta, Appalachian State University, Department of History,
  • Jari Ojala, University of Jyväskylä, Department of History and Ethnology,
  • Oriol Sabaté Domingo, Lund University, Department of Political Science,
  • Peter Hedberg, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,
  • Lars Karlsson, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,
  • Henric Häggqvist, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,
  • Sara Torregrosa-Hetland, Lund University, Department of Economic History,
  • Sergio Espuelas Barroso, Universitat de Barcelona, Department of Economic History, Institutions, Policy and World Economy,
  • Matti Hannikainen, University of Tampere, The Finnish Centre of Excellence in Historical Research,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Lars Magnusson, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,

This panel has Call for Papers open.
If you are interested in participating, please contact the panel organizer(s) to submit a proposal.

  • Henric Häggqvist, Uppsala University, Department of Economic History,, Sweden


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