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 6: European and American Welfare Values: Case Studies in Cash Benefits Reform

Robert Walker


6. European and American welfare values: case studies in cash benefits reform Robert Walker The main title above, ‘European and American welfare values’, is intimidating in its scope and level of generality. With welfare and values broadly defined, it seems to demand a comprehensive account of the culture and lives of a sixth of the people on the planet. The subtitle, ‘Case studies in cash benefits reform’, defines a more manageable task that can still inform broader issues. The intention is to explore similarity and difference and to engage the reader in attributing meaning to any differences revealed. The focus on reform is deliberate since it is at times of reform that values are most likely to be made explicit in policy proposals and legislation, and for culture to be exposed in the limits to reform, both in terms of the opportunity sets of reforms considered and in the opposition engendered by them (Walker, 2005). The concentration on cash benefits is pragmatic. Defined to include contributory, means-tested and citizenship benefits, but restricted to those aimed at persons of working age, this focus reveals important fault-lines in cultures, culture being defined as a term ‘summing up beliefs, norms, institutions and traditional ways of “doing things” in a society’ (Zetterholm, 1994: 2). Cultures are constantly evolving and differentiated products stemming from the actions and interactions of individuals, with some groups having the power to influence cultural processes more than others...

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