Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen
Chapter 5: From charity to social justice: religion and the European welfare state traditions
Kees van Kersbergen For mainstream welfare state literature, particularly the power resources approach, the impact of religion or of religiously inspired social and political movements on the welfare state has always remained a puzzle. The social democratic model of explanation, which – as I will argue below – is still prominent in spite of major recent advances in theory and empirical analysis, proposes a linear relationship between the power of the social democratic labour movement and welfare capitalism. The development of the welfare state is essentially seen as the social democratization of capitalism, with other variants or types explained in terms of an incomplete or distorted shift towards the universal and egalitarian prototypical order. Within the social democratic paradigm, it is really hard to understand why male (industrial) workers (or their wives!) would define their social, cultural and political identity in any terms other than their class position. Theoretically, the model still is heavily shaped by its Marxist heritage and, for that reason, it firmly (but wrongly) ascribes political identity to socio-economic location. In other words, the fundamental assumption of the social democratic model of explanation is that the economic and social position of wage-earners in capitalist societies naturally propels them to become social democrats. The next assumption is that because workers have an interest in taming capitalism, they are the main, if not the only, promoters of the welfare state, whose architecture is therefore essentially of a social democratic quality. However, if one relaxes these (usually hidden) suppositions, an analytical torch...
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