The Future of the Welfare State
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The Future of the Welfare State

Social Policy Attitudes and Social Capital in Europe

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Jørgen Goul Andersen, Torben Fridberg and Kristen Ringdal

At a time when welfare states in Europe are coming under increasing pressure from both growing demand and, in some countries, severe financial austerity measures, the attitudes of ordinary people and European social cohesion are much debated. Using data from the European Social Survey, these empirical analyses examine welfare state attitudes and draw conclusions for the future. Theoretically the book is linked to analyses of altering social risks, policy challenges, policy changes and policy performance of the European welfare states. The analyses in the book explore a variety of individual and macro-level determinants of welfare policy attitudes ranging from socio-economic factors to religiosity, but a special emphasis is laid on solidarity, social cohesion and social capital among European nations.
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Chapter 12: Who Hates the Welfare State? Criticism of the Welfare State in Europe

Heikki Ervasti


Heikki Ervasti INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH QUESTION A well-known fact is that the results of attitude surveys depend on the way the questions are formulated. The way you ask determines the answers you get. This equally applies to studies on welfare attitudes. Recent studies have generated several widely used attitude indicators which can be considered highly reliable. Most of these indicators are intended to be neutral, i.e. not reflecting any normative starting points. However, many of the indicators actually refer to the positive aspects of the welfare state, such as equality, well-being, generosity and the wide coverage of social security benefits and public services. Undoubtedly, it is reasonable to suspect that survey questions formatted in a positive manner may generate overly positive results. More emphasis should perhaps be laid on the negative aspects of the welfare state. Indeed, in public discussions, emphasis is often placed on an array of the negative aspects of social policies. These include adverse economic effects of the welfare state, such as high employment costs and high taxation, but also certain procedural problems including welfare fraud and the insufficiency of benefits. Moreover, certain individual moral consequences of the welfare state are often criticized. The welfare state may be seen as an over-patronizing system that makes people lazy and less caring towards each other and themselves, and which is beneficial only to those who are not willing to take full responsibility for their lives. The starting point of this chapter is that the critical viewpoints should be taken...

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