Transnational Historical Perspectives on Social Policy
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Pauli Kettunen and Klaus Petersen
Chapter 11: Social policy history after the transnational turn
Christoph Conrad In many political debates, the welfare state appears as perhaps the last bulwark of the nation-state. One cannot help but notice however that, in ‘real life’, the attention paid to border-crossing, international and global processes which interact with nationally construed social problems and their regulation has become more and more pronounced. The growth of supranational coordination in the European Union, the emergence of ‘new welfare states’ around the globe and the presence of widely shared structural problems like unemployment, migration or population ageing may suffice as examples. Although the agendasetting in the academic field does not necessarily follow the priorities of the public or political actors directly, it seems obvious that various strands of social scientific research have equally put more emphasis on transnational dimensions of their fields of study, with social policies among them. Migration studies stand out as one of the most prolific fields in this respect (Faist 2000; Pries 2008a; Vertovec 2009). This chapter puts forward the idea that historical studies of the welfare state can only gain from this widening of their horizon and the transcending of the national frame. It first sketches relevant approaches and definitions and sets up three signposts to avoid unproductive detours and unnecessary rediscoveries. It then surveys a series of vectors of transnationality1 in the history of social policies. Underneath lies the question of how to understand the relationship of these dimensions, with the persistence of the nation-state as the decisive actor of welfare politics and policies, both in...
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