Aware of the limitations of Eurocentric approaches to small welfare states, this introductory chapter gives an overview of the similarities between the American, Japanese, and Korean welfare states, identifies key relevant actors, provides a theoretical framework, and sheds light on the underlying logic and mechanisms that led to the formation of the small welfare states. It introduces readers to a few crucial factors that are common to both the US and the two East Asian countries, Japan and Korea: (1) narrowly-organized labor unions at large corporations that have no immediate interest in demanding social welfare for the whole working class, (2) a plurality electoral system that overwhelms politicians with local issues and makes presidents and party leaders sensitive to unpopular tax increases, and (3) the early development of functional equivalents as substitutes for public welfare.
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