Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 4: Conservatism and the Welfare State: Intervening to Preserve
4. Conservatism and the welfare state: intervening to preserve Kees van Kersbergen and Monique Kremer INTRODUCTION Conservatism, whether understood as a cultural trait of norms and attitudes, a disposition (Oakeshott, 1981 ), 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...
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