The Future of the Welfare State

The Future of the Welfare State

Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal

At a time when welfare states in Europe are coming under increasing pressure from both growing demand and, in some countries, severe financial austerity measures, the attitudes of ordinary people and European social cohesion are much debated. Using data from the European Social Survey, these empirical analyses examine welfare state attitudes and draw conclusions for the future. Theoretically the book is linked to analyses of altering social risks, policy challenges, policy changes and policy performance of the European welfare states. The analyses in the book explore a variety of individual and macro-level determinants of welfare policy attitudes ranging from socio-economic factors to religiosity, but a special emphasis is laid on solidarity, social cohesion and social capital among European nations.

Chapter 11: Is There a Religious Factor Involved in Support for the Welfare State in Europe?

Heikki Ervasti

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, welfare states


Heikki Ervasti INTRODUCTION This chapter analyses to what extent support for welfare states in Europe depends on people’s religious orientation. As well reported in recent literature, a notable change has taken place in the religious life of European countries during the last fifty years. The change has been described either as secularization, i.e. people abandoning religious beliefs and becoming less religious, or as a search for new forms of religiosity, i.e. people abandoning traditional forms of religion. Although there is no conciliation about the secularization thesis as such, it is clearly obvious that openly religious behaviour such as church attendance and public prayer is less common than in earlier times, such as some fifty years ago. During recent decades, notable sections of European populations have dropped out of religious affiliations (e.g. Williams et al., 2009). The aim of this chapter is to investigate what repercussions this change may have in respect of public support for the welfare state. Two starting points motivate this study. First, recent research shows that despite the decline in public religiosity, political and moral values in European countries are still affected by it. Indeed, religious change may even fortify the persistence of the impact of religion on politics. General secularization and the liberalization of social and political values may generate counter-reactions among believers (Kelley and De Graaf, 1997). Although secularization means that the non-religious proportion of the population is increasing, the religious proportion may at the same time become more conservative and even fundamentalist in its...

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