The Changing Welfare State in Europe

The Changing Welfare State in Europe

The Implications for Democracy

Edited by David G. Mayes and Anna Michalski

The welfare state in Europe has been reformed gradually over the past two decades, with the intensification of the economic and monetary union and the addition of fifteen new members to the EU. This book explores the pressures that have been placed on the welfare state through a variety of insightful and thought-provoking contributions.

Chapter 6: Privatizing welfare. Changing the face of social protection and democracy in Europe

Tess Altman and Cris Shore

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


In their publication entitled ëA Done Deal? The EUís Legitimacy Conundrum Revisitedí, Eriksen and Fossum (2007, p._17) conclude by outlining the profound challenges that are haunting contemporary Europe. These range from ëovercoming nationalism without doing away with solidarityí and ëestablishing a single market Ö without abolishing the welfare stateí, to ëachieving unity and collective action without glossing over difference and diversityí and ëachieving efficiency and productivity without compromising rights and democratic legitimacyí.This chapter takes up the last of these conundrums by exploring the democratic challenges for Europe raised by attempts to reconcile European welfare systems with the dictates of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the European Single Market. It also examines the intractable and often contradictory goals of those European welfare regimes themselves. The principle objective of welfare has traditionally been to provide basic economic security for citizens by protecting them from market risks associated with unemployment, old age and sickness. However, norms about the need for protection have shifted significantly since the 1980s and new risks have emerged, particularly with the global financial crisis of 2008. ëSocial inclusioní or the ability to participate and be fully included in society has also become an important objective for the EU and many of its member states. Yet the extent to which these different goals are achievable, or indeed compatible, remain issues for debate.This study analyses some of the unanticipated consequences of the increased role of the private and voluntary sectors in the welfare regimes of OECD countries.

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