Gøsta Esping-Andersen (pronounced [ˈjøsd̥a ɛsb̥eŋ ˈɑnɐsn̩]) (born 1947) is a Danish sociologist whose primary focus is on the welfare state and its place in capitalist economies. Esping-Andersen is a professor at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona (Spain), and member of the Scientific Committee of the Juan March Institute and of the Board of Trustees and the Scientific Council at the IMDEA Social Sciences Institute, both in Madrid (Spain).
His major, most influential and highly cited book titled The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism was published in 1990 and it laid out three main types of welfare states, in which modern developed capitalist nations cluster:
- Social Democratic
It is important to note that these categories have little to do with the contemporary labels of American politics, and rather have much more to do with general political theory. The traditional examples of the three types of welfare states are the United States (liberal), Germany (corporatist-statist) and Sweden (social democratic). Mediterranean model is a label for Italy, Spain or Greece, where the family network is important to provide welfare.
Other sociologists and political scientists went on to apply his theoretical analysis to the real world. One such example is a book entitled Real Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, written by Robert E. Goodin, Bruce Headey, Ruud Muffels, and Henk-Jan Dirven. While some critics claim Esping-Andersen's categories are becoming outdated, many political scientists are attracted by its intuitive simplicity.
The evolving nature of welfare states often makes it difficult to categorize. Arguably, many welfare states have components from some or all typologies, making them more akin to points on a continuum rather than rigid typologies. A fact which Esping-Andersen acknowledges in his writings.
According to French sociologist, Georges Menahem, Esping-Andersen's "decommodification index" aggregates both qualitative and quantitative variables for ”sets of dimensions” which fluid, and pertain to three very different areas. Similarly, Menahem has concerns regarding the validity of the index, and its potential for replication.
- Cf. Georges Menahem, « The decommodified security ratio: A tool for assessing European social protection systems », in International Social Security Review, Volume 60, Issue 4, Page 69-103, October–December 2007).
- Social Class, Social Democracy and State Policy. Copenhagen: New Social Science Monographs, 1980.
- Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 3, edited with Roger Friedland. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1982.
- Politics against Markets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.
- Stagnation and Renewal. The Rise and Fall of Social Policy Regimes, with Lee Rainwater and Martin Rein as coeditors. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1987.
- The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press & Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
- Changing Classes: Social Stratification in Postindustrial Europe and North America (editor and contributor). London: Sage, 1993.
- Welfare States in Transition. Social Security in the New Global Economy (editor and contributor). London: Sage, 1996.
- The Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Why Deregulate Labour Markets? (contributor and coeditor with Marino Regini). Oxford University Press, 2000.
- Why We Need a New Welfare State (with Duncan Gallie, Anton Hemerijck and John Myles). Oxford University Press, 2003.