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World Politics

Vol. 64, No. 3

July 2012

Abstract
Associational Networks and Welfare States in Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan

By Cheol-Sung Lee 

This article investigates the structures of civic networks and their roles in steering the political choices of party and union elites regarding the retrenchment or expansion of welfare states in four recently democratized developing countries. Utilizing coaffiliation networks built upon two waves of World Values Surveys and evidence from comparative case studies for Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan, the study develops two explanatory factors that account for variations in welfare politics: cohesiveness and embeddedness. In Argentina and, to a lesser degree, in Taiwan, party and union leaders’ cohesive relationships, being disarticulated from the informal civic sphere, allowed them to conduct elite-driven social policy reforms from above, by launching radical neoliberal reforms (Argentina) or by developing a generous transfer-centered welfare state (Taiwan). In Brazil and South Korea, however, party and union leaders’ durable solidarity embedded in wider civic communities enabled them to resist the retrenchment of welfare states (Brazil) or implement universal social policies (South Korea) based on bottom-up mobilization of welfare demands. This article demonstrates that elites in the formal sector make markedly different political choices when confronting economic crisis and democratic competition depending upon their organizational connections in formal and informal civic networks.


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