"Wealthier is healthier." This characteristically pithy observation by Lant Pritchett and Lawrence H. Summers (1993) summarizes one of the most firmly-established findings about population health. Health is closely related to social class. This "health gradient" shows up in all the developed democracies. On a wide variety of measures, people of higher socioeconomic status tend to be healthier than those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.
Contemporary approaches to varieties to capitalism are often criticized for neglecting issues of institutional change. This paper develops an approach to institutional change more extended than the one provided in Hall and Soskice(in Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001) but congruent with its varieties-ofcapitalism perspective. It begins by outlining an approach to institutional stability, which suggests that the persistence of institutions depends not only on their aggregate welfare effects but also on the distributive benefits that they provide to the underlying social or political coalitions; and not only on the Paretooptimal quality of such equilibria but also on continuous processes of mobilization through which the actors test the limits of the existing institutions. It then develops an analysis of institutional change that emphasizes the ways in which defection, reinterpretation and reform emerge out of such contestation and assesses the accuracy of this account against recent developments in the political economies of Europe. The paper concludes by outlining the implications of this perspective for contemporary analyses of liberalization in the political economy.
Thirty years after the initiatives of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher signaled the beginning of a neo-liberal era that would usher in widespread enthusiasm for competitive markets, the world is experiencing a global recession precipitated by financial crises rooted in the excesses of unbridled competition. As a result, the neoliberal era is at an inflection point, if not a close. Many people are reconsidering what markets can deliver and looking again to states for more assertive efforts to regulate and distribute resources. After several decades of irrational exuberance about what markets could accomplish, scholars are looking at capitalism with more sober eyes.
For two hundred years, social science has provided the lens through which people view society and the visions animating most demands for political reform-at least since Adam Smith's efforts to unleash the "invisible hand" of the market without destroying the moral sentiments of society. However, the perspectives of social science shift, as each new generation questions its predecessors, with import for politics as well as the academy. From time to time, therefore, we should reflect on them. In this essay, I do so from the perspective of political science, mainly about American scholarship and with no pretense to comprehensiveness, but with a focus on the disciplinary intersections where so many have found Archimedean points.