World Politics

Research Article

Power Resources and Employer-Centered Approaches in Explanations of Welfare States and Varieties of Capitalism: Protagonists, Consenters, and Antagonists

Walter Korpia1*

a1 Stockholm University,


The power resources approach, underlining the relevance of socioeconomic class and partisan politics in distributive conflict within capitalist economies, is challenged by employer-centered approaches claiming employers and cross-class alliances to have been crucial in advancing the development of welfare states and varieties of capitalism. Theoretically and empirically these claims are problematic. In welfare state expansion, employers have often been antagonists, under specific conditions consenters, but very rarely protagonists. Well-developed welfare states and coordinated market economies have emerged in countries with strong left parties in long-term cabinet participation or in countries with state corporatist institutional traditions and confessional parties in intensive competition with left parties.

(Online publication June 13 2011)

Walter Korpi is a professor at The Swedish Institute for Social Research (son), Stockholm University. His articles have appeared in numerous journals of political science, economics, and sociology. His research interests are welfare state development, political sociology, political economy, unemployment, class, and gender. He can be reached at

* This research has been supported by the Bank of Sweden Tercentennial Foundation, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, and the Swedish Research Council. Earlier versions of the manuscript have been presented at the meeting of ISA Research Committee 19 in Chicago, 2005, and at seminars during 2006 in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Department of Sociology at Stockholm University, Department of Political Science at Uppsala University, and the Swedish Institute for Social Research. For constructive and valuable comments on the manuscript, I thank participants at these occasions, as well as Klas Amark, Stefan Englund, Ingrid Esser, Tommy Ferrarini, John Goldthorpe, Olli Kangas, Ingalill Montanari, Kenneth Nelson, John Myles, Joakim Palme, Michael Shalev, Ola Sjoberg, Stefan Svallfors, and three anonymous reviewers of this journal.