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 4: Conservatism and the Welfare State: Intervening to Preserve

Kees van Kersbergen and Monique Kremer


Kees van Kersbergen and Monique Kremer INTRODUCTION Conservatism, whether understood as a cultural trait of norms and attitudes, a disposition (Oakeshott, 1981 [1962]), or a political ideology, is intimately related to the welfare state. The latter historically can be seen as an answer to two problems of development: ‘the formation of national states and their transformation into mass democracies after the French Revolution, and the growth of capitalism that became the dominant mode of production after the Industrial Revolution’ (Flora and Heidenheimer, 1981: 22). This immediately clarifies why conservatism is related to the welfare state: its set of political ideas and cultural disposition has the origin in the political critique of the French Revolution of 1789 and the social critique of the capitalist industrial revolution. The main characteristics of the conservative social model are authoritarianism, paternalism, an organic and hierarchical view of politics and society, corporatism, familialism, and a stress on the importance of status reproduction in social policy. Does this add up to any coherent vision of the ‘good society’? Associating a utopian vision of a future good society with conservatism seems to be at odds with what we understand as the meaning of conservatism. Conservatism is a set of ideas and attitudes that has its basis in a central conviction about the fundamental limits of the human condition, and that opposes ideologies that do not take into account human imperfection and fundamental social differences and tensions, such as between men and women (second section). Historically, conservatism...

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