Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 5: Christian Foundations of the Welfare State: Strong Cultural Values in Comparative Perspective
Michael Opielka The cultural analysis of the welfare state up to now has concentrated mainly on political values. It is highly elaborated in the theory of welfare regimes developed by Gøsta Esping-Andersen (1990). There, the value dimension of social policy is conceptualized on the classical left–right axis of social democracy (or socialism), liberalism, and conservatism, perpetuating the French Revolution’s well-known value-triad of equality, freedom, and fraternity/solidarity. These ‘basic principles’ of welfare-state policies come combined with structural and institutional dimensions, for example, the role of the welfare state versus the market, or gender roles and the family. However, a twofold, religiously-based reasoning about the process of modernization has accompanied the seeming limitation to the study of political values since the founding years of social policy. Therefore the questions followed in this chapter are: do Christian foundations of the welfare state exist; are, in a globally comparative perspective, other religious traditions relevant for social policies; and, how important is their inﬂuence, besides being political value-orientations? The two controversial perspectives on the inﬂuence of religion on the modern welfare state are the starting point for my analysis. First, on a more concrete, structural level, advocates of a ‘natural’ order have argued that the welfare state has contributed to the dissolution of the family by promoting individual rights and labor market integration of women: ‘The family is the original and natural institution which provides basic provision’ (Koslowski, 1997: 365). Religion, in this perspective, has been viewed as the true haven...
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