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In the last two decades, European welfare states underwent a deep process of reconfiguration to respond to both domestic and external challenges. This article enters the debate about welfare state reforms using the metaphor of recalibration to argue that such institutional re-balancing, far from being only a retrenchment process, displays some interdependence between additions and subtractions in the social policy agenda, and a deliberate shift of emphasis among the various instruments and objectives. As recalibration is a multidimensional concept, a detailed description of the different patterns of functional, distributive, normative and politico-institutional change in Europe’s four social regimes – Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, Continental and Southern – is given. The major underlying idea is that, though policy solutions are mainly path-dependent, common challenges open some room for the circulation of best practices and information among the different European countries. This is especially true considering the increasing role of EU institutions in social protection, which fosters a complex relationship between national and supranational levels of government.