This study presents a macro-sociological analysis of welfare state development, particularly focusing on the timing of adoption of social legislation, by examining the dynamic relations between the historical constellation of social and political forces and the rationalities of three key social actors in the development of social policy. After a critical analysis of current theories, the variables are tested concerning the effects of different historical sequencing and the accompanying bargaining power of the social actors on the timing of social policy adoption in the western European countries from 1871 to 1976 using event-history analysis. Such variables as the level of industrialization, the interests of state managers, the percentage of the vote which socialist or labor parties received, and the timing of political institutionalization should be considered crucial to explain the development of social policy in these countries.

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