Since the mid-1970s, the Western welfare states have found themselves in new circumstances. After a period of analysis of the welfare state crisis during the 1980s, more and more studies have focused during the 1990s on the actual welfare state changes that have occurred (or not) during the last 25 years. Probably under Anglo-Saxon influence – Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher had explicit anti-welfare agendas – the early analyses were phrased in terms of retrenchment (after the golden age of growth). They sought to discover how far governments had reduced social expenditure since the late 1970s. In 1994, Paul Pierson emphasised the stability of welfare arrangements when comparing Reagan’s or Thatcher’s ambitions to the actual outcomes of their reforms. He explained this resistance to change by the force of past commitments, the political weight of welfare constituencies and the inertia of institutional arrangements which all engender a phenomenon of path dependency. He concludes that: Any attempt to understand the politics of welfare state retrenchment must start from a recognition that social policy remains the most resilient component of the post-war order.’ 1 Broadening the scope to other developed countries to analyse ‘national adaptation in global economies’, 2 Gøsta Esping-Andersen came to a similar conclusion, depicting a generally frozen landscape and emphasising the rigidity of the continental welfare state arrangements. He concluded that ‘the cards are very much stacked in favour of the welfare state status quo’. 3 Even though the conclusion was again that no dramatic changes could be (fore)seen, analyses of different welfare regime’s developments did allow a differentiation of the general notion of retrenchment into different processes linked with the specific institutions of each welfare system.