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Polycentricity, Political Economy, and the Welfare State

Author: RICHARD E. WAGNER
Published in PFM, Vol. 8 No. 2

This paper uses the welfare state as a vehicle for contrasting alternative theoretical orientations toward political economy: one orientation conceptualizes the state as an organization; the other, which is embraced here, conceptualizes the state as an order that in turn contains numerous organizations. The programs associated with the welfare state are thus emergent outcomes of polycentric processes and not the product of some actor’s maximizing choice. Among other things, this alternative conceptualization provides a different orientation toward state-sponsored redistribution.

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