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The Evolution of Modern States: Sweden, Japan, and the United States (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics) Paperback – July 19, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0521145466 ISBN-10: 0521145465 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521145465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521145466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Taking the evolution of complex adaptive systems as its starting point, Steinmo invites us to rethink what we think we know about the issues of globalization and institutional change. In doing so the continued success of Sweden, the prolonged stagnation of Japan, and the hidden costs of the American model become all become explicable within the same framework of analysis."
- Mark Blyth, Brown University

"This engaging and powerful book is of vital importance. It explains clearly why the march of globalization has not led to a 'race to the bottom' where developed countries are obliged to lower their welfare provision. It is also a pioneering example of the application of evolutionary theory in the social sciences, showing among other things that evolution means neither market liberalism nor ultimate uniformity. Enhanced by illuminating country studies, it encourages an optimism both for the fruitful development of evolutionary ideas and the survival of modern welfare states."
- Geoffrey M. Hodgson, University of Hertfordshire

"Why have capitalist democracies remained welfare states with distinct tax systems and economic policy profiles, despite the effects of globalization and the subsequent transformation of their political economies? To tackle this puzzle, Sven Steinmo has examined the critical cases of Sweden, Japan, and the United States. His logic of evolutionary narratives illuminates the subtle mixture of divergences and parallels, continuity and change in the varying trajectories experienced by the three nations."
- Junko Kato, University of Tokyo

"Sven Steinmo has chosen an important and difficult question to answer regarding the diverse evolutionary paths of different modern states. Comparing Sweden, Japan and the US is an ingenious strategy and his findings are very thought provoking and important."
- Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University

"Steinmo gives us a book that is bold in its conceptualization, challenging in its choice of cases, and rich in comparative insights. It challenges the underpinnings of a predictive and linear political science and demonstrates convincingly that different political systems, like the many species in nature, do not respond to phenomena like universal phenomena such as globlalization by becoming similar; rather they adapt in discreet ways that retain much of their long standing distinctiveness. A product of 'big think,' this book will generate serious debates across the field of comparative politics."
- T.J. Pempel, University of California, Berkeley

Book Description

The Evolution of Modern States: Sweden, Japan, and the United States examines the politics, history, and public policy of three countries in three different continents. Written from an evolutionary perspective, it shows how these countries' economic systems, social welfare policies, and political institutions have co-evolved over time to give these countries remarkably different abilities to adapt to the pressures they face in the twenty-first century. The book's wide-ranging historical analysis will be of interest to students of history, politics, and political economy.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin on March 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book was assigned for a welfare state class. It does a good job of comparing the three countries without losing focus or becoming too dense. Steinmo doesn't attempt to have an overly ambitious thesis, but rather focuses on what actual policies are and the various explanations . He Puts more focus on Institutional and Power Resources than political opinion but never disregards the importance that culture and public opinion can have. This book is a great resource for finding examples of the differences between welfare states, while remaining relatively straight forward.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Associate9 on January 31, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found tis book really interesting and useful.
I will use it in my undergraduate comparative politics classes because it does a very good job of explaining how the Swedish, Japanese and American political economies work in a way that good undergraduates can understand. It gives a very interesting historical account of each of these systems and does an excellent job of explaining both how they are so different and why they are likely to stay different despite the common pressures they face today.

I will also have my graduate students read this book as an introduction to a new way of thinking about politics and history and for it's critique of the classical ontologies underlying too much political science. Many of my colleagues will not like these idea, but whether we agree with them or not, we should certainly take Steinmo's arguments very seriously.

Definitely worth a read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeannie DeMarinis on August 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
Sven, I recently finished reading your book and found it very interesting. (I read it cover to cover and all the footnotes). As I have no background in Political Science or Economics there were parts I probably didn't grasp, but being the daughter of a geneticist, I could understand and appreciate why you used the concept of evolution to structure your book. It really made sense.

After reading your introduction "Evolutionary Narratives" I headed to the section on Japan, first of all, because I know very little about Japan and secondly because I have recently had some long conversations with my niece who has been living in Japan for 18 years, is married to a Japanese man who owns a construction business and who she has 3 children with. Your explanation of the Japanese "hybrid" shed light on some of the curiosities my niece was describing in regards to tax penalties for working wives, health care coverage during pregnancy and delivery, child care (or lack thereof) and the structure of the educational system. Your brief description of Japan'e recent history was most helpful.

When I read the section on Sweden, I realized how little I know about the country other than that they have a strong socialized health care system. Sweden has been smart and lucky from the beginning!. Again the historical information was very helpful.

Actually, the section on the U.S. is what really floored me. I know the U.S. at least as well as any other U.S. citizen of my age, but your take on the facts was a revelation to me! Suddenly, I could for the first time understand all my frustrations living with our peculiar and complicated tax system, health care system and cumbersome political system which puts a lid on making any real changes in policy.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Poppy Copeland, LPC on September 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an ambitious and important book. To begin with, Steinmo does
something that few scholars attempt today - he writes a careful and detailed
comparison of three quite different countries (Sweden, Japan and the United
States). I can think of no book written in the past many years that even
attempts such a broad comparative overview of important countries in three
different continents. Sadly, political science has increasingly turned
toward more and more narrow and static analyses - even while we complain
about this trend. In a real sense, "The Evolution of Modern States" is
written in the grand tradition of comparative politics.

At the same time that it is ambitious, Steinmo's book is very well written
and remarkably easy to follow.

The book starts out with a simple puzzle: What happened to the 'Race to the
Bottom?' Drawing a fascinating comparison to the way different species are
adapting to Global Warming, Steinmo contends modern nation states are also
adapting in quite different ways to the pressures they face in the early
21st century. One of the first and most interesting points Steinmo makes is
that (contrary to many people's expectations), the most heavily taxed
country in the world, Sweden, is doing remarkably well in an increasingly
competitive e and 'globalizing' world. His analysis also helps us
understand why the US and Japan are struggling, despite their low taxes and
small (inequitable) welfare states. He shows how these once optimistic and
growing nations have turned away from their egalitarian traditions and how
this growing inequality breeds growing distrust.
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2 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jackal on January 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is about the development of the welfare state rather than the state in general. The book kind of reads like a doctoral dissertation, but apparently it is not. The writing is tentative and certainly not authoritarian. I found it somewhat interesting, but I didn't expect the total focus on the welfare state. There are many other aspects of the state, which are just as important (eg military, R&D investments, education). The author should know this and change the title. If the author is Swedish maybe he is so blinded and think that the only role of government is to provide welfare for its citizens.

There is no overarching theory in the book except that there are different ways to skin a cat, but that doesn't amount to a theory. So don't expect too much. Still you'll find some interesting stuff in book. Like the fact that the US welfare state is actually bigger than normally assumed because they dish out tax credits rather than subsidies. The author is right in pointing out that a tax credit is identical to a subsidy. Sweden gives subsidies to all parents and the US gives tax credits to all parents.

One other thing: I don't like that a lot of the data in the book is old. The book was printed in 2010, but a lot of the charts contain ten year old information. In many cases OECD data is used in tables and there is absolutely no excuse to end a time series in 1999. Absolutely no excuse. For this reason I would understand if somebody would rate the book even lower. This is indeed very sloppy. It harks back to what I said about the author writing without authority and tentatively. If I would make any important decision on the information available in this book I would definitely double check first.

Overall this is somewhere between one and two stars. Not worth reading for most people.
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