Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen
Chapter 9: Marketization and free choice in the provision of social services. Normative shifts 1982Â…2008
9. Marketization and free choice in the provision of social services. Normative shifts 1982–2008. Social Democrat lip service as a response to problems of legitimacy Jørn Henrik Petersen The last 25 years bear witness to normative shifts from viewing the public sector as a political institution to seeing it as a service supplier, and from viewing individuals as responsible citizens and community members participating in collective decision-making (‘zoon politicon’) to seeing them as users, consumers and customers acting in market-like institutions (‘Homo oeconomicus’). De-politicization, privatization, marketization and free (consumer) choice have become dominant metaphors in the rhetoric of the so-called modernization or renewal of the public sector. If the ‘classic welfare state’ is characterized by collective decision-making, collective responsibility, collective financing, collective production and collective supply of services of such a quality that market-based, competitive, free-choice solutions are crowded out, it must be expected that decollectivization and de-politicization will be opposed by social democrats – seeing themselves as ‘founding fathers’ of the welfare state. If they nevertheless promote changes that are market-accommodating by nature, an explanation is called for. Baggesen Klitgaard (2007) compared Swedish and Danish policies on public schools and unemployment insurance as examples of market-oriented welfare state reforms. He explains the social democratic support of such changes as an endeavour to protect the core of the universal welfare state: tax finance and equal access. Faced with growing criticisms of the classical social democrat welfare state, the party chose to endorse market-oriented changes in order to protect basic...
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