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Few discussions in modern social science have occupied as much attention as the changing nature of welfare states in Western societies. Gøsta Esping-Andersen, one of the foremost contributors to current debates on this issue, here provides a new analysis of the character and role of welfare states in the functioning of contemporary advanced Western societies. Esping-Andersen distinguishes three major types of welfare state, connecting these with variations in the historical development of different Western countries. He argues that current economic processes, such as those moving toward a postindustrial order, are shaped not by autonomous market forces but by the nature of states and state differences. Fully informed by comparative materials, this book will have great appeal to all those working on issues of economic development and postindustrialism. Its audience will include students of sociology, economics, and politics.