Chapter 16: Rumors that diversity is the death of the welfare state are greatly exaggerated: on the resilience of the European social model
That the welfare state is in crisis has become a cliché. For the last four decades, there has been a veritable cottage industry proclaiming the imminent collapse of the European social model. Particularly since the mid-1970s, many scholars, pundits and journalists have proclaimed that one of the signal achievements of European politics – a government-protected minimum standard of income, nutrition, health, housing and education – is unsustainable. Explanations include ‘globalization’, which is argued to induce downward pressures on tax rates (Schwartz 2001); ‘deindustrialization’, which is said to shift employment structures towards more service-oriented positions (Iverson 2001); a purported drop in productivity in the tertiary economy, known as ‘postindustrialization’ (Pierson 2001); the ‘fiscal crisis of the state’ (O’Connor 1973), where government expenditures grow faster than state revenues; the ‘graying’ of modern societies driven by the entry of women into the workforce and the corresponding drop in fertility leading to low birth rates (Brittan 1998; Kotlikoff and Burns 2004), and the literature on the ‘moral challenges’ of the welfare state, suggesting that the state apparently undermines the natural bonds of family and friendship (Habermas 1987; Taylor 1987). More recently, ‘homogamy’ has been touted as a potential challenge to the welfare state, suggesting that people of a similar social class tend to marry each other, leading to increased inequality and a decline of social mobility (Esping-Andersen 2007).
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