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Privatizing Pensions:
The Transnational Campaign for Social Security Reform
Princeton University Press, October 2008
Mitchell A. Orenstein
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Polish Translation

To what extent do international organizations, global policy networks, and transnational policy entrepreneurs influence domestic policy makers? Have we entered a new phase of globalization that, unbeknownst to most citizens, shapes policies that used to be the sole domain of domestic politics? Privatizing Pensions reveals how international institutions–such as the World Bank, USAID, and other transnational policy actors–have played a seminal role in the development, diffusion, and implementation of new pension reforms that are transforming the postwar social contract in more than thirty countries worldwide, including the United States.
Mitchell Orenstein shows how transnational actors have driven change in a policy area once thought to be beyond reform in many countries, and how they have done so by deploying their unique resources and legitimacy to promote new ideas, recruit disciples worldwide, and provide a broad range of technical assistance to government reformers over the long term. He demonstrates that while domestic decision makers may retain veto power over these reforms–which replace traditional social security with individual pension savings accounts–transnational policy makers play the role of “proposal actors,” shaping the information, preferences, and resources of their domestic clients.
Privatizing Pensions argues that even the most quintessentially domestic areas of policy have been thoroughly globalized, and that these international influences must be better understood.

Winner of the 2009 Levine Book Prize
Przegląd, (Warsaw), Reviewed by Leokadia Oreziak, 2011
Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Reviewed by Bruce Kogut, July 2010


Pensions, Social Security, and the Privatization of Risk
Columbia University Press/SSRC Books, 2008
Edited by Mitchell A. Orenstein

Mitchell Orenstein brings together leading economists and policy advisors to discuss the complex and timely issue of retirement and risk. Employers, increasingly called upon by elected officials, have begun to shift from a model of collective risk-sharing towards a model of individualized investment risk. This represents a marked difference from the notion of an American “social safety net,” which emerged during the Great Depression. Weighing what is gained and what is lost as new schemas surface, this book offers readers reasoned analysis of the looming crisis and our collective alternatives both domestically and abroad.

Click here for an interview with the author on the Columbia University Press blog.
SSRC Books


Transnational Actors in Central and East European Transitions
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008
Mitchell A. Orenstein, Stephen Bloom, Nicole Lindstrom

The editors of this volume contend that transnational actors have exerted a powerful influence in postcommunist transitions. They demonstrate that transitions to democracy, capitalism, and nation-statehood, which scholars thought were likely to undermine one another, were facilitated by the integration of Central and East European states into an international system of complex interdependence. Transnational actors turn out to be the “dark matter” that held the various aspects of the transition together. Leading scholars debate the role and impact of transnational actors and present a promising new research program for the study of this rapidly transforming region.


Roma in an Expanding Europe
World Bank Publications, 2004
Dena Ringold, Mitchell A. Orenstein, Erika Wilkens

Roma are the largest minority group in Europe and are the major poverty risk group in Central and Eastern Europe. Poverty rates from recent World Bank poverty studies are striking. In Bulgaria, Roma were found to be ten times more likely to be poor than ethnic Bulgarians. Roma also comprise an increasing share of the population in ECA countries, because of higher birth rates. These dynamics have gained international attention, and the European Union accession process, in particular, has focused attention on the issue. Governments and international institutions have been eager to support initiatives to address the needs of Roma. However, the lack of credible information on the actual living conditions of Roma and the absence of program evaluations have provided substantial obstacles.This book brings together original sociological research, evaluations of programs, and the first comparative cross-country household survey on ethnicity and poverty. It finds that Roma poverty is multi-faceted and can only be addressed by a comprehensive policy approach that attends to all dimensions of Roma social exclusion. It proposes an inclusive policy approach which would expand and promote Roma involvement and participation in mainstream society, while maintaining cultural and social identity and autonomy. Policy mechanisms include those which make existing policies more accessible to Roma and identifying areas where targeted initiatives are needed.


Pension Reform in Europe: Process and Progress
World Bank Publications, 2003
By Robert Holzmann, Mitchell A, Orenstein, Michal Rutkowski

Pension reform is an important topic, high on the agendas of most European countries, where countries are profoundly affected by an aging population, the result of lower fertility, and increased life expectancy, changes in family structure, and the effects of globalization. The book presents seven papers on the political economy of European pension reform, where clearly, major reforms are needed, to ensure the sustainability of retirement income systems. However, reform programs will need to combine measures to delay retirement; introduce changes in the benefit structure; and, diversify the sources of retirement income, to better balance individuals’ risks. Subjects address the need to accelerate the European pension reform agenda, and compares the making of pension privatization in Latin America with that in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, subjects look at democracy and structural pension reform in continental Europe, focusing on the aging population, the electoral behavior, and early retirement impacts, on the basis of commitment, and consensus – or the lack thereof – to pension reform. Most interestingly, one of the subjects questions, and further analyzes, the wide differences of social policy models among transition economies, to finalize with a look at the diffusion of pension innovation. These subjects provide insight into the process, and progress of European pension reform, to the benefit of the reform agenda in other regions as well.

Millennium – Journal of International Studies, Reviewed by Carlo Chiattelli, 2005


Out of the Red
Building Capitalism and Democracy in Postcommunist Europe
The University of Michigan Press, 2001
Mitchell A. Orenstein

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the countries of East-Central Europe embarked on a journey to transform themselves into democratic capitalist societies. Their governments searched for strategies that would allow them to pursue radical market reforms within the context of nascent democratic politics. Poland adopted a neoliberal strategy that attempted to push through as much reform as possible before an antireform backlash could occur. In the Czech Republic, a social liberal strategy for transformation attempted to combine neoliberal macro-economic policies with social democratic measures designed to avert such a backlash.

A detailed analysis of Poland and the Czech Republic suggests that alternation between strategies has been the secret to the success of East-Central European countries.

This comparative case analysis identifies the significance of reform mistakes during transition and the corrective benefits of policy alternation, its claims illustrated with an in-depth study of privatization policy in the two countries.

Mitchell A. Orenstein delves into the historic struggle to build capitalism and democracy during a decade of post- communist transition in East-Central Europe and develops a model that explains why democratic policy alternation may accelerate policy learning under conditions of uncertainty and constraint.

Out of the Red is accessible to a general audience and as such is suitable for both graduate and undergraduate courses on political economy. It will be of particular interest to economists, political scientists, sociologists, students of postcommunism, and anyone interested in the relations between capitalism and democracy in the contemporary world.

Journal of Politics, Reviewed by Jacqui True, May 2002
Foreign Affairs, Reviewed by Robert Legvold, November:December 2001