Universiteit Leiden

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Natascha van der Zwan

Associate professor

Dr. N.A.J. van der Zwan
+31 70 800 9574

Natascha van der Zwan does comparative and historical research on financialization and the welfare state, pension investment rules and regulations, and pension fund capitalism. Her work has been published in, among others, Socio-Economic Review, New Political Economy, and Journal of Modern European History. She is the co-author of Nederland Pensioenland (Amsterdam University Press, 2016, with Sijbren Kuiper) and one of the editors of the forthcoming International Handbook of Financialization (Routledge, with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens). She is currently working on a comparative-historical analysis of pension financialization in the Netherlands, Germany and the United States.

More information about Natascha van der Zwan

I am an Assistant Professor in Public Administration at Leiden University. I do comparative and historical research on financialization and the welfare state, pension investment rules and regulations, and pension fund capitalism. My work has been published in, among others, Socio-Economic Review, New Political Economy, Journal of Modern European History, and by Amsterdam University Press (Nederland Pensioenland, 2016, with Sijbren Kuiper). My article “Making Sense of Financialization” (Socio-Economic Review, 2014) has become a key publication in scholarship on financialization. It is the second most cited paper on financialization every published and it is widely used in university courses. I am also one of the co-editors of the forthcoming International Handbook of Financialization (Routledge, 2019, with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens).

I am currently working on several projects related to my research on financialization and the welfare state, with a special focus on the politics and policies of pension fund investment.

1. Consensus Capital: Finance and the Political Economy of the Welfare

Financialization, or the growing influence of finance over the productive economy and other realms of life, has had a profound impact on social policy, most importantly in the area of private pensions. The current study is innovative in several ways. First, it departs from the labor market focus of traditional studies of the welfare state and instead provides a financial perspective on social policy. Second, it emphasizes the endogenous roots of welfare state transformation, rather than conceptualizing financialization as an outside source of change. The book focuses on the Netherlands, a corporatist political economy with a strongly developed financial system and an international model for its occupational pension system. Comparing the Dutch case to the United States and Germany, it analyzes the mutually constitutive relationship between the welfare state and the financial system, as it developed over the course of the 20thcentury.

From September 2018, I will be an Instituut Gak fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies. The fellowship period will be dedicated to finalizing the book manuscript.

2. The Routledge Handbook of Financialization (with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens)

Financialization has become the go-to term for scholarship that studies the vastly expanded role of finance in contemporary politics, economy and society. The concept itself has equally expanded and evolved from a niche research theme in critical scholarship to one that informs an increasingly broad-ranging and pluridisciplinary research field. The International Handbook on Financialization will be the first publication of its kind to bring together established and upcoming scholars from various social scientific disciplines to reflect on the state-of-the-art in this emergent field. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the scholarship on financialization as it stands today, almost twenty years after the concept was first embraced by social scientists. Reflecting the move away from scholarship descriptively investigating the manifestations of financialization (e.g. the financialization of particular economic sectors, segments of society, or particular geographies), i t highli ghts scholarship studying the driving forces, mechanisms and boundaries of financialization. Finally, the Handbook promotes a more inclusive approach towards financialization studies: one that does not privilege the North Atlantic region, on which much scholarship has previously focused, but includes contributions which take a more global view – hence “international” handbook.

3. Pension Funds and Sustainable Investment (with Karen Anderson and Tobias Wiβ)

The central aim of this project is to compare national regulation of sustainable investment by pension funds in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Survey research shows that considerable national differences in sustainable investment (SI) by pension funds continue to exist in Europe and it identifies regulation as one of the drivers for SI . For this reason, it is relevant to explore if and how national regulations impose constraints or offer opportunities for SI by pension funds. The project employs a broad conceptualization of regulation, incorporating 1) national legislation, 2) regulatory activities by supervisory agencies and 3) self-regulation by the pension fund sector itself. We define sustainable investment as an approach to investment that considers environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in portfolio selection and management. In the study, we will focus on three types of regulation influencing sustainable investment by pension funds: 1) corporate gove rnance r ules regarding voting of ESG criteria, 2) investment regulations, that prohibit or mandate investment in particular asset classes; and 3) rules regarding the fiduciary duties of pension fund trustees.

This project is financed by a Netspar Comparative Research Grant.

Grants and awards

  • Netspar Comparative Research Grant (2018-2019);
  • Instituut GAK Fellowship (2018-2019);
  • Emerald Publishing Citation of Excellence Award (2017);
  • ICTO Teaching Innovation Grant (2017);
  • Frieda Wunderlich Memorial Award for an Outstanding Dissertation by an International Student (2012)

Academic expertise

  • Comparative political economy
  • Historical political economy
  • Financialization
  • Pension policy
  • Politics of investment


  • Markest in the Welfare State
  • Public Policy and Values
  • Research Methods (IEG/PM)

Associate professor

  • Faculty Governance and Global Affairs
  • Instituut Bestuurskunde

Work address

Turfmarkt 99
2511 DP The Hague
Room number 4.107


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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