This substantial volume, edited by Giuliano Bonoli and David Natali, arises from a conference held at the European University Institute (EUI) in 2010. It includes eleven substantive chapters, some of them principally conceptual, some of them primarily empirical, sandwiched between a (substantial) scene-setting editorial introduction and a lesson-drawing conclusion. It includes contributions from many of the most influential analysts of the welfare state working in Western Europe today (the focus here is explicitly confined to Western European experience). Particularly helpful are the editorial introduction (which very clearly surveys the major changes in welfare state experience of the past 20–25 years), Jane Jenson's chapter on the dynamics of social investment, Crouch and Keune on the dynamics of economic uncertainty and, among the substantive chapters, Ingela Naumann on childcare policies in the ‘new’ welfare state.

Overall, the judgement is that something really has changed in the welfare state in Europe over the past fifteen years. The older perspective (which owed something to Paul Pierson's argument in Dismantling the Welfare State?) which suggested that, in the face of a lot of doom-mongering, welfare state politics was remarkably resilient (if genteelly decremental), comes in for some criticism (as do some of Pierson's expectations about the politics of blame avoidance). There have been important changes – real retrenchment in some areas, a focus upon pro-employment strategies, a lessening in universalism and a growing (sometimes intergenerational) dualism in provision – but these have not always been in the (predictable) neo-liberal direction. Above all, we are encouraged to think in terms of a multidimensional politics of welfare. Whether this amounts to the emergence of a ‘new welfare state’ is, in the editors' judgement, largely a matter of personal taste.

Overall, this is an invaluable collection. Many of the individual chapters are excellent and taken together they provide the most sustained analysis yet published of the welfare state in these new times. Unfortunately (and despite Anton Hemerijck's careful analysis in ch. 4), it just was/is too soon to know how catastrophic the consequences of the financial crisis post-2008 (now lumbering into its sixth no-growth year) will prove to be. If the European economy continues to flatline, all bets may yet be off.