Culture and Welfare State
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Culture and Welfare State

Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger

Culture and Welfare State provides comparative studies on the interplay between cultural factors and welfare policies. Starting with an analysis of the historical and cultural foundations of Western European welfare states, reflected in the competing ideologies of liberalism, conservatism and socialism, the book goes on to compare the Western European welfare model to those in North America, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. Comprehensive and engaging, this volume examines not only the relationships between cultural change and welfare restructuring, taking empirical evidence from policy reforms in contemporary Europe, but also the popular legitimacy of welfare, focusing particularly on the underlying values, beliefs and attitudes of people in European countries.
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Chapter 1: The Culture of the Welfare State: Historical and Theoretical Arguments

Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opielka and Birgit Pfau-Effinger


Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opielka and Birgit Pfau-Effinger Some would deny that paying attention to welfare values and beliefs is contributive to our understanding of social policy. The idea that moral ideas and debates have a significant influence on the design of welfare has been equated with the idea that the party and gossip on deck determines the course of the ship (Schoor, 1984). Baldock (1999) has argued that culture, as a set of common values, norms and attitudes shared by the majority of a national population, is not a missing variable in understanding social policy. However, those who deny any significant relationship between culture and welfare policy take a lonely position. Much more often than not the opposite view is expressed in the literature. For instance it is broadly accepted that the early development of Western welfare states can be understood as resulting from, partially, industrial and economic growth (Wilensky, 1975), a power struggle between the interests of classes and risk categories (Baldwin, 1990), and a struggle between such various ideologies as conservatism, liberalism and socialism (George and Page, 1995). In addition, it is acknowledged that Catholic and Protestant religious cultures have had influence on the formation and design of European welfare states (Kersbergen, 1995), and that a political culture of neo-liberalism has been steering the restructuring of Western welfare states during the last two decennia (Bonoli et al., 2000). Many more examples could be given to illustrate that relations between culture and welfare...

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