The welfare states of the affluent democracies now stand at the centre of political discussion and social conflict. In these path-breaking essays, an international team of leading analysts rejects simplistic claims about the impact of economic 'globalization'. Economic, demographic, andsocial pressures on the welfare state are very real, but many of the most fundamental challenges have little to do with globalization. Nor do the authors detect signs of a convergence of national social policies towards an American-style lowest common denominator. The contemporary politics of thewelfare state takes shape against a backdrop of both intense pressures for austerity and enduring popularity. Thus in most of the affluent democracies, the politics of social policy centre on the renegotiation, restructuring, and modernization of the post-war social contract rather than itsdismantling. The authors examine a wide range of countries and public policies arenas, including health care, pensions, and labour markets. They demonstrate how different national settings affect whether, and on what terms, centrist efforts to restructure the welfare state can succeed.