Beyond familialism: Recalibrating family, state and market in Southern Europe and East Asia

Margarita Estévez-Abe, Jae Jin Yang, Young Jun Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This Special Issue takes on a new cross-regional comparison between Southern Europe and East Asia in an attempt to identify ‘new politics’ of welfare state adjustments. Departing from the previous literature that overemphasized regional peculiarities of East Asian and Southern European welfare states, our Special Issue highlights family resemblances – among Italy, Japan, Korea and Spain. We argue that these four welfare states – often labelled as ‘familialist’ – share key common characteristics, which in turn experienced very similar policy problems in recent years. Interestingly, despite their initial similarities, these four countries have been trying to cope with new policy problems in different ways. In this process, some are clearly becoming less familialist. The main aim of this introductory article is to demonstrate the theoretical advantages based on the new cross-regional comparison. This article proceeds in three steps. First, it establishes the usefulness of the concept of family resemblances in our cross-regional comparison. Second, it presents a brief historical account of recent policy differences across the four countries going beyond familialism and shows that the existing theories fail to account for the new divergences. Third, it provides the overview of the Special Issue by explaining the research puzzles each paper tackles. We argue that these four welfare states, which are moving beyond familialism to varying degrees, represent heuristically helpful cases to explore the effects of both domestic and international political factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-313
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of European Social Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • East Asia
  • Southern Europe
  • familialism
  • welfare reform
  • welfare state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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